ADDIS ABABA, May 4 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Saturday urged African countries and pan-African institutions to prepare modalities as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) edges closer to entry into force.
Adeyinka Adeyemi, ECA senior adviser with the African Trade Policy Center (ATPC), called on African countries and partners to undertake trade and investment forums toward the success of the continental free trade pact, which is weeks away to entry into force.
On Wednesday, the African Union (AU) set a one-month timeframe to activate the AfCFTA on May 30 as Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of ratification to the AU Commission earlier in the week.
"The two deposits meet the minimum threshold of ratifications required under Article 23 of the AfCFTA Agreement for it to enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the 22nd deposit, which is made by the Saharawi Republic," the AU said in statement on Wednesday.
According to Adeyemi, continental and regional forums and meetings are vital instruments to deepen economic integration of African countries, which is a "vital imperative toward the success of the AfCFTA."
"There is no doubt that the AfCFTA will not only reduce or eliminate barriers to trade and harmonize standards on the continent," Adeyemi said. "It will also provide an overarching framework within which regions can address their peculiar challenges in a specific manner."
The free trade pact "should also be used as a catalyst for inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development in Africa," he said.
The ECA organizes regional trade and investment forums to facilitate the successful realization of the AfCFTA.
"Such forums help to speed up the pace of regional integration, which will be explored using specific and concrete trans-boundary projects, such as interconnected power grids, shipping, transport-related logistics corridors, and mining and development projects," Adeyemi said.
The ECA had previously organized a regional trade and investment forum on the AfCFTA, which brought together representatives from west African countries, in Lagos, Nigeria.
"In Lagos stakeholders highlighted the need to more effectively engage the private sector, which is best-placed to identify and seize opportunities created by the AfCFTA," according to the ECA.
East African countries, in partnership with the AU and ECA, are scheduled to hold a Horn of Africa Regional Trade Forum on May 23-24 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The AfCFTA, which was signed by 44 African countries when it was launched in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in March 2018, aspires to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur industrialization and create more jobs.
Regarded as the world's largest free trade zone by the number of countries, the AfCFTA covers more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
Once operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the ECA.