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Only a few states ready for AfCFTA December target

Saturday November 14 2020
African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

A meeting in Rwanda's capital Kigali on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) taking on March 21, 2018. With less than six weeks to the start of trading under AfCFTA, only 18 out of the continent’s 55 countries have submitted their tariff offers and rules of origin. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

By JULIUS BARIGABA

Less than six weeks to the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, time is running out for countries to conclude and submit their tariff offers as well as rules of origin, which will govern trade from January 1, 2021.

Only 18 out of the continent’s 55 countries have submitted their tariff offers and rules of origin. The EastAfrican has learnt that a number of countries missed the October 30 deadline to submit their tariff concessions, and have until the December 5 African Union summit to do so, officials said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sao Tome and Principe have submitted their tariff concessions as they are not part of any Customs Unions or single customs territory. Although Nigeria ratified its membership of AfCFTA on Wednesday, it still has to lodge its tariff concessions and rules of origin before the December 5 deadline.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the states under the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) have tabled their offers, according to Prudence Sebahizi, the head of AfCFTA Negotiations Support Unit at the African Union. The East African Community, whose members can’t submit offers individually since they apply a Common External Tariff, is yet to respond with a tariff offer.

Although we could not immediately establish why this is so, as our inquiries to the EAC went unanswered, the commissioner for external trade in Uganda’s Ministry of Trade Emmanuel Mutahunga told The EastAfrican that, “We submitted our tariff offer already… that should be in May/June this year.”

Apparently, some of the bloc’s member states sent their tariff offers to the Arusha-based secretariat more than four months ago.

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As the continent navigates the Covid-19 storm, experts fear that the outstanding issues — which include schedules of specific commitments on trade in services, in addition to member states not ratifying the agreement — will disrupt trade under the long anticipated AfCFTA.

As of November 11, only 30 AU member states had ratified the AfCFTA agreement. Once the agreement comes into effect, 90 percent of products in Africa will enter duty-free quota-free, seven per cent for sensitive products and the remaining three per cent for exclusion.

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