Members of the African Chambers of Commerce and Industry met at the Hilton for two days last week and establishing a Continental Free Trade Area (C-FTA)
within the next three years was a major part of their agenda.
“As your conference comes on the eve of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial conference where we will be pressurized to enter into deals that are not so beneficial to developing countries, the out come of your two day reflection here will surely give us more ammunition to resist the pressure,” said Fatima Haram Acyl, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry speaking during the opening session of the conference.
The WTO Ministerial conference is to take place in Bali, Indonesia from December 3rd to 6th with discussions on trade facilitation in Africa which some feel will have a positive effect on the continent’s trade performance as well as priority areas in the African Union Action Plan, towards boosting intra-African trade.
“The continent is being transformed at a pace the world has yet to grasp fully. In this regard, the growth in trade is having and will continue to have a profound effect on people’s lives,” said Hailemariam Dessalegn in his opening remarks.
He also stated that the realization that trade has a far reaching impact in propelling Africa’s growth further was evident in the AU’s decision to make establishing a Continental Free Trade Area (C-FTA) one of its key objectives.
In January 2012, the 18th AU Summit agreed on fast tracking the establishment of C-FTA by 2017. The C-FTA plans to eliminate tariffs on almost all originating trade between C-FTA member states. Along with measures to further reduce the cost of cross-border trade, it will not only help to increase intra-Africa trade but also to improve Africa’s competitiveness in the global market place.
“There are evidently opportunities, but it is also fair to say that Africa can be, and often is, a challenging environment in which to work. Our economies are far less integrated than should have been the case. One important challenge and a topic for which this forum is deservedly dedicated is intra-Africa trade. We need to find a way of unblocking intra-Africa trade, which will be the real motor of Africa’s growth,” Hailemariam also said.
The conference also held discussions on the issue of mainstreaming and implementing coherent efficient trade policies, reducing time and cost for moving to destinations as well as creating regional and continental value chains, increasing local production and trade in goods that are made in Africa.