ADDIS ABABA, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Wednesday urged African countries to develop national implementation strategies so as to harness the full potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The ECA noted in a statement the vital importance of crafting national implementation strategies among African Union (AU) member countries in accordance with each specific country's priority area under the continental free trade pact.
It also revealed its commitment to support African countries in the development of country-specific AfCFTA strategies.
"The country-specific AfCFTA implementation strategy, once completed, will complement the broader trade policy of member countries and identify the key trade opportunities, current constraints, and steps required for the countries to take full advantage of national, regional and global markets in the AfCFTA context," said the ECA statement.
"The AfCFTA is expected to be a key engine of economic growth, industrialization and sustainable development in Africa as stated by the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 for - The Africa We Want," the ECA said.
According to the ECA, the national implementation strategy, being developed by African countries, mainly outline each country's priority interest within the continental and global development agenda, as part of a wider project aimed at deepening Africa's trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA.
The ECA made the call weeks after the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) entered into force on May 30, following the deposit of ratification by 22 AU member countries.
The AfCFTA, which entered into force 30 days after the minimum threshold of 22 countries having deposited their ratification instruments to the AU, has so far witnessed 24 countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification to the pan African bloc.
The African free trade accord, which was launched on March 21 last year in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, had on May 24 added Zimbabwe to its growing list of countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification.
The ECA, which helps AU member countries to develop their own national implementation strategy in the AfCFTA context, also on Wednesday disclosed that it will organize a national consultative forum in partnership with the AU and the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) to facilitate the development of national implementation strategy for Zimbabwe.
According to the ECA, African experts from key economic and social sectors as well as representatives from Zimbabwean government will gather on June 19 and 20 to give their perspectives on the AfCFTA, lessons learnt from regional trade integration, as well as future policy direction on the implementation of the AfCFTA in the southern African country.
The meeting is also expected to consolidate proposals from various stakeholders on the effective implementation strategy of the AfCFTA and guide the composition of the National Committee on the AfCFTA, which will oversee the implementation of the agreement in Zimbabwe, it was noted.
The AfCFTA, among its major aspirations, include creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, thus paving way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union.
The AfCFTA has laid the foundation for what could be the world's largest free trade zone by the number of participating countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion dollars, according to the AU.
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.
So far, 52 out of 55 AU members have signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, which envisaged a common market for the continent.