African experts, policymakers hail progress in continental free trade pact

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-22 22:25:24|Editor: xuxin
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ADDIS ABABA, March 22 (Xinhua) -- African experts and ministers of finance, planning and economic development on Friday extolled Ethiopia for ratifying the instrument instituting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The Ethiopian House of People's Representative, the Ethiopian parliament's lower house, on Thursday ratified the continental free trade pact, making the East African country the 21st African country to ratify the free trade pact that requires 22 ratifications for entry into force, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said.

The East African country's decision to ratify the agreement, which came as the continent marked the first anniversary of the signing of the agreement by some African countries in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, was applauded by those who gathered under the ECA's umbrella for a continental meeting, the ECA said.

They expressed positive remarks regarding AfCFTA's progress during a continental meeting hosted by the ECA in Marrakech, Morocco, the ECA said in a statement.

Experts and policymakers also hailed ECA's support to the African Union (AU) and its member states in formulating, negotiating, and adhering to the agreement.

"After keenly following a report by ECA's Executive Secretary on the activities of the Commission since its session in Addis Ababa last year, representatives from several countries enjoined ECA to accompany their countries to fully appropriate the continental trade arrangement so as to benefit from it," an ECA statement on Friday read.

Deputy Executive Secretary of the ECA, Giovannie Biha, said that the ECA "is going to popularize the AfCFTA and make it handy for frontline policy implementers across the continent."

Biha, who assured delegates that ECA's African Center for Statistics (ACS) has been leading in the rebasing of statistics on GDP, also emphasized the need to increase efforts on investing more in data and statistics among African countries so as to realize continental targets, including the AfCFTA.

ECA's Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division, Stephen Karingi, and Chief of Evaluation at ECA, Eskedar Nega, also assured African delegates that the ECA is already accompanying 15 countries in drawing up their AfCFTA strategies and that this support would be extended to other countries on a request basis.

The AfCFTA mainly aspires to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

It also envisaged to expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general, according to the AU.

According to figures from the AU, some 52 African countries have so far signed the free trade pact.

Adam Elhiraika, Director of the Macroeconomics and Governance Division of the ECA, also indicated that AfCFTA "is a game-changer, with a potential to transform Africa's economic growth trajectory."

According to the AU, the free trade pact, once operational, will resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expediting the regional and continental integration processes.

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