By Kingsley Alu, Abuja
Secretary-general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat Wamkele Mene, has said the Rules of Origin – the criteria needed to determine the nationality of a product – could make or break the AfCFTA if not appropriately designed and enforced to support preferential trade liberalisation.
He stated this during a call on the minister of industry, trade and investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo in Abuja.
But to qualify for such preferences, the secretary general said firms within the free trade area (FTA) must meet rules of origin requirements.
According to him, by doing so, more trade would be created within the AfCFTA, serving as a base to support the development of regional value chains and the building of manufacturing capacities in Africa in addition to generating the jobs needed to harness the continent’s demographic dividend.
But whether in practice firms within the AfCFTA utilise trade preferences and the extent to which they would do so depends on the way rules of origin are designed and implemented.
“We have to be very robust about the implementation of the Rules of Origin. We want to have a Rules of Origin regime that fosters industrialisation on the African continent. This is how we develop our continent. We want this agreement to create jobs, not job losses,”he stated.
Mene said the AFCFTA secretariat would work very closely with Custom authorities to enforce the Rules of Origin.
Further, to make AfCFTA rules of origin less costly for firms to comply with, the secretary general said the capacities of customs authorities in enforcing them would be built and cross-border cooperation among customs authorities fostered.
“We have to protect our domestic market. If other products want to compete in our market, that’s fine, it is allowed under the international law, but they will not enjoy the same preferences as an ACFTA product.
“That is why in the secretariat, I have created the position for director, Customs Enforcement and Coordination so that we can develop a rapid response where we identify one of these leakages of goods coming in that are not supposed to come in,” he added.