Despite growing dissatisfaction over the seemingly inactive trading under the AFCFTA, the Guided Trade initiative which has been introduced is expected to bring some change.
Seven party states under the AFCFTA will begin the Guided Trade initiative to test all the negotiations, documents, policies and procedures that have been agreed on so far as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is concerned. The countries include Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius.
Speaking on the Eye on port program, Trade Consultant and Afcfta expert, Dode Seidu staded the program will kick-start on October 7 and countries are currently readying their individual private sectors for active trading.
« I’m aware that in the background the respective countries have been having discussions to identify specific companies, specific goods and specific corridors that can trade bilaterally in an effort to test the process. »
He revealed that these 7 countries are those who have submited their schedule of tariff concessions and have demonstrated advanced processes on the ground rendering these countries relatively mor prepared to trade under AFCFTA .
He said Ghana for example has gone a step ahead to establish a national AFCFTA coordination office, readied its customs in terms of training and capacity, among other efforts.
He opined that the pilot program is timely and opportune for significant trade to actually commence under the free trade agreement while revealing lessons the wider continent can learn from.
He emphasized that authorities are only looking to facilitate the trade in goods that qualify under the acceptable rules of origin.
Mr. Dode Seidu said the Guided Trade Initiative is « the newest signal that African ministers of trade are really committed to see trade come past.
Taking his turn on the subject, AFCFTA Strategist and Executive Director of the AFCFTA Policy Network (APN) Group, Louis Yaw Afful expressed that trade efforts by party states collectively have been underwhelming culminating in the low state of trading under the AFCFTA arrangement.
« Everybody is dragging their feet. One country will say its customs management and administration is not ready. Some will say, they haven’t gazetted their tariffs. »
He said, due to the lacklustre approacch some party states had taken, the AFCFTA Secretariat felt a need to inject some impetus for the trade leading to the Guided Trade Initiative.
He said like most new internationals protocols, there’s the need for certain « anchor countries » to take the bold step of leadership in oder to advance common objectives.
He stated that he would have been more impressed if bigger players like Nigerian and South Africa had shown more enthusiasm for AFCFTA.
The Executive Director of APN Network said it is still not a great look for AFCFTA, when in 2022, 7 countries out of the lot appear to be ready for the trade.
The AFCFTA experts, however, jointly called on the private sector to continue to be diligent in finding new markets, participate in trade fairs and establish new contacts while waiting for opportunity to actually trade everywhere within the continent.