As part of efforts to fast track the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group on Wednesday signed a $4.8 million institutional support grant to the African Union (AU) for its implementation.
The grant, earlier approved by the Group’s on April 1, 2019, forms part of a series of interventions by the region’s biggest development lender in its role to accelerate the implementation of the free trade agreement, seen as a major force for integrating the 55-nation continent and transforming its economy.
The deal was sealed by the AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga and Andoh O. Mensah, who represented the bank’s Director of the Industrial and Trade Development Department (PITD).
Recall that the African leaders met in Niamey, Niger, on July 7 and launched the implementation phase of the free trade area agreement established in March 2018 after it became operational at the end of May this year.
Currently, 54 states have signed the deal and are set to begin formal trading next July.“The AfCFTA is going to work and we are confident that by July 1, next year, all the 55 countries would have been state parties – meaning, they would have signed and ratified the agreement and intra-African will start,” Muchanga said.
He commended the AfDB’s strong and consistent support to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement and assured that the grant would be used judiciously for the rollout of various protocols relating to the structure and mandate of the AfCFTA secretariat.
The agreement is expected to expand intra-African trade by up to $35bn per year, ease movement of goods, services and people across the continent’s borders and cut imports by $10bn, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by seven per cent and five per cent respectively.
Mensah, on his part, pointed out that the deal will help to stabilise African countries, allow small and medium-sized enterprises to flourish, promote industrialisation and lift millions out of poverty.
“If AfCFTA is complemented by trade facilitation reforms, reduction in non-tariff barriers, improved infrastructure and policy measures to encourage employment and private sector investments, it will stimulate poverty reduction and socio-economic development across Africa,” he said.