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Now for the hard part, says Secretary-General of African Continental Free Trade Area

Accra, Ghana (CNN)The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has been heralded as a landmark agreement. Advocates say it will transform business across Africa by removing tariffs and making it easier to trade across borders.

Signed in March 2018, trading under the agreement officially began on January 1, and efforts are now focused on rolling out the plan effectively.
CNN’s Eleni Giokos spoke with Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA secretariat, earlier this year. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Eleni Giokos: How far are you in harmonizing rules, lifting tariffs and opening up borders?
Wamkele Mene: We have completed the easiest part — that is for 55 countries to negotiate a single set of rules. The most difficult part is implementation. We all know there’s differentials in levels of economic development (between African nations). We have a long way to go to build the capacity of our customs authorities, to make sure that our customs authorities across the length and breadth of the continent know exactly what the rules are.
It’s going to take a very long time. I always make the point that it took market integration in Europe over 72 years to get to the point where they are today. And so we, as Africans, should not expect that this is going to be easy. It’s going to be incredibly difficult, but I’m encouraged, in that we took the first step.
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