Addis Ababa, 16 October 2017 (ECA) – The year 2017 is the breakthrough year towards the speedy implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), says Stephen Karingi, Acting Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
In an interview ahead of the 10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration (CRCI10) that will be held in Addis Ababa from October 31 to November 2, 2017, Mr. Karingi said important progress has been made so far towards the establishment of the CFTA.
The CFTA will bring together all African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US $3.4 trillion once it takes effect.
With the CFTA, African leaders aim to, among other things, create a single continental market for goods and services, free movement of business persons and investments and expand intra-African trade. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise levels.
“While recognizing that CFTA is not a silver bullet whose implementation would work out Africa’s developmental challenges, CFTA adoption and implementation is certainly a right step at the right time towards advancing Africa’s development agenda, Agenda 2063 at the helmet,” said Mr. Karingi, who’s also Director of the ECA’s Capacity Development Division.
The tenth session of the Committee and the preceding Expert Group Meetings will be devoted to topical issues of relevance to the future of CFTA.
The Committee will also review developments taking place in the international trade arena, and progress made by African countries in the areas of regional integration, infrastructure and food security, agriculture and land.
“The millions of food-insecure people on our continent; the energy and income-insecure are all eagerly looking for an ambitious outcome of the negotiations and the adoption of CFTA,” said Mr. Karingi.
The inaugural meeting of the negotiating forum was launched back in February 2016, with the commitment to complete the first phase of CFTA negotiations by the end of 2017.
In January 2017, the twenty-eighth Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit chose Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou as champion of the process.
Several meetings of the negotiating forum have since been held and there is a clear indication of progress, said Mr. Karingi.
“So against this backdrop, the 10th session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration will take place at a time of renewed commitment for accelerating the establishment of the CFTA,” he said.
“This will require an introspective understanding, from the side of member States, on the importance of the implementation of CFTA, and, hence, a speedy negotiations and adoption of a framework agreement.”
The 9th Session of the CRCI held some two years ago focused on concrete policy actions and measures required to “Enhance Productive Integration for Africa’s Structural Transformation”. The session took note that Africa’s structural transformation has lagged behind its improved economic growth performance.
It is against this backdrop that the 10th CRCI will focus on trade, regional cooperation and integration which are core pillars to ensure Africa advances in its transformative agenda.
The Session will also reiterate continued support for both the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) and the implementation of the CFTA.
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