A month after 44 African states signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, members of the Lower House have given the green light to the deal that is aimed at making Africa the largest trade bloc in the world.
The MPs also passed the protocol on trade in services, free movement of persons, protocol on trade in goods, and the protocol on dispute settlement mechanism.
Rwanda becomes the first country to ratify all the instruments.
The AfCFTA protocol, signed in Kigali by 44 of the 54 African Union member states, paves the way for an expanded market and economic growth and development across the continent.
Presenting the concept paper on the agreements on Tuesday, the State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, said that as a country that hosted the AU Summit that endorsed the deals and was fully involved in the historical signing just a month ago, it was imperative that Rwanda ratifies the agreements and set precedence for the rest of Africa.
“This is a source of pride for a country which at this time is also chairing the African Union and it makes more sense for us to be among the first to ratify the agreement and we feel that this will expedite the setting up of the African Customs Authority. This is aimed at encouraging doing business with partners.
AfCFTA will open doors to more business and investment opportunities,” he said.
Addressing fellow lawmakers, MP Henriette Sebera Mukamurangwa expressed her support for the ratification saying that there was no need to wait any longer.
“I would like to support the ratification of these instruments. It is a moment of pride for our country and for Africans at large. It’s a historical moment that as Rwandans we should be happy about,” she said.
MP Julianna Kantengwa said that the ratification of the agreement places the MPs in books of history.
“Being part of such a political moment is a blessing because it is an opportunity to contribute to the nation. To be on the list of those who ratified such an important agreement is the epitome of my political contribution in this country,” she said.
MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo suggested that the contents of the agreements are translated for easier comprehension by all Rwandans.
“Article 16 requests signatories to publicise the detailed contents of the agreements and the process is expedited but also, let it be translated to other languages so that by the time it gets in the official gazette, it is something that all Rwandans can read and understand”.
“This agreement took up to forty years to come to fruition, so it’s imperative that whoever is interested in it can access it in a language that is easier for them,” she said.
She said that the next focus should be put on strategising better to maximise the expanded market.
If all member states of the AU ratify the agreement, this will create a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 2 trillion US Dollars.
During the summit last month, the heads of state agreed that the AfCFTA agreement can go into force once at least 22 members ratify it.