Rwanda, Niger ratify African free trade bill

Rwanda, Niger ratify African free trade bill

By Omer Redi – The governments of Rwanda and Niger have joined Kenya and Ghana in ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area AfCFTA Protocol.

“Up to this moment we have four countries that ratified the AfCF TA with the latest two countries Niger and Rwanda. We will be doing advocacy to encourage other countries to ratify the protocol] and theAfrican Union Commission and the private sector group known as, AfroChampions, are also is doing the same,” said David Luke,Coordinator African Trade Policy Centre at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He made the remark this afternoon in Addis Ababa at a press conference.

He made the remark at sidelines of meetings of Economic experts from all African countries who are discussing on AfCFTA. The experts are discussion on the impacts on some of the challenges and opportunities AfCFTA will bring to individual African countries. Following their meeting the ministers for economic planning will start their 2018 annual meetings to deliberate on the recommendations of their experts.

One of the issues the experts are discussion include, the impact of the 6.1% average tariff on import set by the AfCFTA and trading inservices. Some of the experts are worried about the decline of revenue from import as a result of the 6.1%. They worry that as a result of that their spending on social services might be impacted negatively.

Meanwhile a research by the UNCTAD and the UNECA shows that the overall decline on income tax as a result of AfCFTA will range from $4.5 – $5 billion across the continent while the increase in GDP is estimated to reach up to $30 billion as a result of increase in FDI and other benefits of the free continental movement of people and goods.

Commenting on the question how Zimbabwe, which is already filled with
South African products can avoid from being over flooded with more products as a result of AfCFTA, Stephen Karinge, Regional Integration and Trade Division at the UNECA, said that the protocol allows countries to review such issues and take corrective measures.

He further noted that such things are unlikely to happen because 56% of the current intra-Africa trade mainly within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is taking place as duty-free.

For the protocol spearhead by the African Union Commission a minimum of 22 countries are expected to sign it before the end of 2019 inorder for it to go fully operational. The protocol is signed by 44countries in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda during a special African Union meeting.

Out of the remaining 11 members of the African Union, which have not yet signed the protocol, six have already signed a statutory note indicating that they are going to be part of one of the biggest regional market in the world with 1.2 billion populations and 2.5 trillion economies, according to Mr. Luke. South Africa, one of the biggest economies in the continent, is also one of them.

Commenting on why Nigeria has not yet signed the Protocol, Mr. Karingi says he is very much sure that Nigeria will sign the protocol and ratify it even before some of those who signed the protocol already ratify AfCFTA. “Without Nigeria AfCFTA would have reached this stage. It is only Nigeria requested more time to finalize issues before signing it,” he said.