By Kingsley Alu, Abuja
The Secretary-General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, has said that challenges to the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement such as the issue of AfCFTA Rules of Origin would be squarely addressed.
Mene told newsmen after a courtesy visit on the minister of industry, trade and investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, in Abuja that the AfCFTA secretariat would work very closely with customs authorities of the various African Union (AU) member states to ensure that through robust implementation of the AfCFTA Rules of Origin regime, the prevention of transshipment of goods from third countries that are outside of the AfCFTA zone would be stopped.
When asked to comment on Nigeria’s closure of her borders to protect her domestic market and the latest move by Ghana government to lock up shops belonging to Nigerians in that country as a retaliatory measure,
Mene noted that substantial domestic policy reforms and alignment of national legislation with the AfCFTA instrument was required in order to reduce barriers to intra-Africa trade.
According to him, accelerating Africa’s industrial development objectives and Africa’s industrial development action plans were key to reconfiguring the continent’s supply chains, establishing regional value chains, and manufacturing the essential goods that it needs.
“We might have value chains in two or three priority sectors, especially in critical areas such as agro-processing and automobiles. These are the areas that have a direct impact on job creation and economic growth in Africa,” he explained.
He also said that it was important that participating countries build an efficient and participatory institutional architecture to avoid leaving any economies behind, adding that to increase the impact of the trade deal, industrial policies, especially those concerning SMEs and manufacturing must be put in place, and these must focus on productivity, competition, diversification and economic complexity.
On the future of the trade deal, Mene said, “This is an opportunity that is unprecedented. We want this trade agreement to have a long-term impact.
“In the same way that market integration in Europe happened over 50 years, in Africa it will also take a long time. What is being celebrated is the fact that Africa has reached this point where we are moving rapidly towards an integrated market.
“We are determined to make it work. When we started negotiating, some said that we would never conclude the negotiations. We concluded the first phase of negotiations in less than four years. Then, they said that the countries would never sign it. Out of 55 countries, 54 signed the agreement. Then, they said it would never be ratified. The agreement was ratified by 28 countries, which enabled it to enter into force. Now, they are saying that we will never be able to implement it. I want to tell the doubting Thomases out there that we will implement it. This agreement will be a shining example of how a trade agreement is negotiated in a way so it has strong development features and onboards the segments of society that have been historically left behind.
“We have learned from the lessons of Europe and other parts of the world. We are determined to ensure that we bring everybody on board as we implement this agreement, that the biggest and the smallest countries in Africa benefit equally from this agreement,” he said.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi , while congratulating the new secretary general, and assuring of Nigeria’s commitment to the trade agreement, said It would build production capacity in the region and develop the value chain and also create