The African Development Bank Group has given the African Union (AU) a US$4.8 million institutional support grant for the implementation of the continental free trade area.
The grant, approved by the group’s board of directors in April, forms part of a series of interventions by AfDB in its lead role to accelerate implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), seen as a major force for integrating the 55-nation
continent and transforming its economy.
Albert Muchanga, AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry on Monday initialed for the continental body, and Obed Andoh Mensah, representing the AfDB’s director of the Industrial and Trade Development Department, signed for the grant on behalf of the bank.
African leaders meeting in Niamey, Niger in early July launched the implementation phase of the free trade area agreement established in March 2018 after it became operational at the end of May. 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 the 1st of July 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 as he urged countries to use
this period to complete the parliamentary processes.
Muchanga commended AfDB’s strong and consistent support to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement, saying the grant would be used judiciously for the rollout of various protocols relating to the structure and mandate of the AfCFTA secretariat.
The AU currently has an interim secretariat, tasked to provide the organisational structure for the permanent administrative body, its work programme and related issues including its budget. The Niamey summit announced the siting of the AfCFTA secretariat in Accra, Ghana.
AfCFTA has the potential to create the largest free-trade area in the world, uniting 55 African countries with a combined gross domestic product of more than US$2,5 trillion.
It is a major force for continental integration and expansion of intra African trade, currently estimated at around 16 percent.
The trade agreement is expected to expand intra-African trade by up to US$35 billion per year, ease movement of goods, services and people across the continent’s borders and cut imports by US$10 billion, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by 7percent and 5 percent respectively.
In his remarks, Mensah said the deal will help stabilise African countries, allow small and medium sized enterprises to flourish, promote industrialisation and lift millions out of poverty.
“If the 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, noting that the goals of AfCFTA are aligned to the
Bank’s flagship High 5s.