While AfCFTA secretary-general Wamkele Mene told delegates at the recent 2020 tralac annual conference that trade would be the driver of growth under the AfCFTA and that it was incumbent on members to implement the required policy and legislative frameworks (see article headlined ‘What needs to be done to make AfCFTA work’), the private sector made it clear that words were not enough – they want to see implementation and enforcement.
Lack of transparency in trade rules and regulations, limited access to necessary information and lack of harmonised standards and automation are among the raft of challenges they face.
The hopes of the private sector are that the AfCFTA will be fit for business and fit for purpose with rules and regulations that are business effective. This means predictable and transparent trade rules, harmonised customs operations and documentation requirements, inter-agency and intra-agency cooperation and data exchange, trade facilitation provisions that deal with non-tariff barriers in a practical way, and a digital and paperless process.
Border congestion related to the issue of Covid-19 documentation – which has been well covered in this news portal – is a stark reminder of what happens when there’s no intra-regional co-operation.
Delegates stressed that increasing intra-Africa business opportunities and investment would require a reduction in the cost of doing business through tariff reductions, sensible rules of origin, trade facilitation measures, and enhanced customs cooperation. “To achieve this, it is not just about the obligations and commitments negotiated and included in the agreement, but ensuring implementation, compliance and enforcement of these obligations.
“Enacting national laws to give effect to the AfCFTA, training and capacity building of officials (including customs officials), awareness creation, accountability and collaboration (among agencies at national level, between business and government, and at regional and continental levels) are essential for the AfCFTA to work for business, and to deliver real benefits,” delegates said.
The conference was held under the theme ‘Trade Governance in Africa amidst a Pandemic and other Global Challenges’.