President Uhuru Kenyatta is tomorrow expected to join other African Heads of State and Government who will converge in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a landmark agreement to create a Continental Free Trade Area.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to establish a single market that will spur industrialization, infrastructural development, economic diversification and trade.
The new agreement is also expected to increase intra-Africa trade beyond the current 13 percent and improve the prospects of the African Continent to attract huge investments.
The creation of the AfCFTA provides new export opportunities for African products whose combined GDP stands at US dollars 3 trillion, covering over 1.2 billion people.
The agreement also covers issues on non-tarriff barriers, technical barriers to trade, customs procedures and a framework on transit issues between countries.
Presidents Kenyatta, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda have been very instrumental towards the creation of the continental trading bloc.
The AfCFTA agreement will be signed during an Extra Ordinary Summit of the African Union to be held at the Kigali Convention Centre tomorrow.
The new agreement creates a borderless Africa in terms of trade in goods, services, jobs, investment, free movement of people, intellectual property rights and competitiveness.
Although many countries from Africa have embraced the new trading bloc, only 22 out of the 54 nations of the continent are required to sign and ratify the new protocol to make it operational after it is domesticated by respective parliaments of each country.
Various Ministers of Trade and economic experts from Africa described the new trading bloc as a game-changer.
They were, on Tuesday, upbeat that the AfCFTA has the potential of becoming the largest Free Trade Area in the world due to the populous region it serves, the huge resources and youthful human capital.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Monica Juma said the new agreement makes Africa the new theatre in matters of trade where the continent will be able to move its goods everywhere and among countries.
“We are moving from country-based markets to the huge continental-based market. We are opening the continent to itself and to everybody,” said the CS, adding that goods cannot be moved without the movement of people.
Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Aden Mohammed said the creation of the AfCFTA is a major milestone where all countries, including Kenya, can freely access huge markets like those offered by South Africa and Nigeria.
Those starting businesses in Africa, said the CS, will no longer complain about small markets in countries of operation because they can set base in Kenya but still access the entire African market.
Uganda’s Minister for Trade Ms Amelia Anne Kyambadde said the AfCFTA agreement marks “a great beginning for Africa”.
She said besides spurring growth in the continent, the new agreement will reduce the cost of doing business, put in place mechanisms to protect Africa from dumping of dangerous substances and increase peace in the region.
Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the State Department for International Trade Dr Chris Kiptoo said the AfCFTA agreement has three protocols that cover trade in goods, services, rules and procedures and dispute settlement among countries.
He said the continent is also working on a regional payment system in view of the multiple currencies and the challenges posed by different values of respective currencies.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Chief Executive Ms Carole Kariuki said KEPSA is particularly happy because it has been pushing and advocating for enhanced and formalized intra-Africa trade.