Kenya set to lead in ratifying Africa free-trade treaty

Tuesday April 03 2018

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta signs trade agreements during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Kigali on March 20, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Kenya is on course to become the first African country to offer legal backing to the continental free-trade zone after a Bill endorsing the agreement for trading bloc was presented to Parliament for approval.

The National Assembly is expected to debate on the Bill for ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) after it was tabled in the House by Industrialisation cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed.

The pact is expected to establish a single market with duty-free access among traders in the continent meant to spur industrialisation, infrastructure development and economic diversification across Africa that is home to more than 1.2 billion people.

“Parliament is requested to take note of the content of this memorandum, take note of the Cabinet approval for signing, ratification and engagement under phase II and ratify the framework establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area in good time to facilitate entry into force of the AfCFTA and pave the way for Kenya to exploit opportunities arising from the AfCFTA,” said Mr Mohamed in a memorandum to Parliament.

In approving the treaty last week the Cabinet asked the private sector to prepare to extend their foothold into all the 54 African nations “once Kenya becomes among the first nations to ratify the AfCFTA”.

Yet to sign


Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, and most-developed, South Africa, are yet to sign up to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone.

Nigeria said domestic consultation was needed before committing to such an agreement.

When fully implemented, the treaty is expected to enable residents of all member countries to enjoy the convenience of a single passport and currency.

The AfCFTA aims to create a single market for goods, services and movement of persons to deepen the economic integration of the African continent.

Economists point to Africa’s low level of intra-regional trade as one of the reasons for the continent’s enduring poverty and the lack of a strong manufacturing base.

Mr Mohamed in the memo sought to allay fears that the single market would result in the dumping of cheap imports and pose unhealthy competition to local industries.