By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
A plan to create a single continental market for goods and services in Africa would be implemented by end of this year, African Union Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert M. Muchunga said.
“…Negotiations are moving in the right direction and at the desired pace. We are on target to deliver Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by December this year,” Muchunga told reporters on the sidelines of the foreign ministers meeting ahead of Monday’s African Union leaders’ summit.
According to Muchunga, currently intra-Africa trade stands at 14 percent of all transactions and there was a plan to double the figures by 2021.
“The CFTA will bring 54 African countries with a combined population of more than one billion and a combined gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion,” an African Union publication said.
The first phase of CFTA negotiations would focus on trade in goods and trade in services while the second phase will focus on competition, investment and intellectual property rights.
Not everyone subscribed to the idea of creating a continent-wide free market area as there remain serious unresolved issues.When asked as to what extent lack of convertibility of currency would impact on implementation of the plan, Muchunga said, “Convertibility of currency is a long term objective of the CFTA.”
According to him, the first step focuses on dismantling tariff and non-tariff barriers across the continent, which ultimately should motivate intra-African trade.
The CFTA is one of a raft of agenda items the leaders will deliberate on. The leaders will hear a progress report on the issue to be presented by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger.
This year’s African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government will also take on the thorny issues of security, armed conflict, terrorism and violent extremism.
Speaking at the opening of the foreign minister’s meeting, Chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said reforming the pan-African body would also take center stage.
Rwanda President, who was commissioned to lead the reformation efforts, is expected to unveil the reform measure.
“A dynamic impetus was imprinted to the reform process,” he said, describing the reformation to be implemented in 2018 to become a “second renaissance of Africa”.
For his part, Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa Abdalla Hamdok told the Foreign Ministers that the economic growth this year slowed to 2.7 percent from 3.4 percent the previous year.
According to him, the situation was not bleak though and in the coming year growth prospect will slightly improve to 2.9 percent and growth will be driven by Africa’s position to attract more trade and investment.