Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Mr Wamkele Mene, says 38 countries have so far ratified the agreement establishing the agreement.
Mene, who disclosed this while speaking with newsmen, Wednesday, in Abuja, said that it was at the initial stages of AfCFTA implementation.
The 55-member states of the Africa Union (AU) established the AfCFTA to create a single continent-wide market for goods and services and to promote the movement of capital and natural persons.
He said though ratifying an international instrument involved a lot of processes but governments were encouraged to be fast for full AfCFTA implementation and benefits across the continent.
On January 1 AfCFTA implementation officially came into force to deepen economic integration and promote single market of goods and services on the continent.
“We are still waiting for others to ratify the agreement. But I am not worried that we are about 38 because in ratifying any international instrument, processes including legal and political processes needed to be followed for a country to be in a state of readiness.
“There are countries that are ready with custom’s infrastructure that is required to be able to trade in a commercial and meaningful sense, examples are South Africa, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya.
“These are countries that have introduced the necessary customs procedures for the trading to start happening,” he noted.
The Secretary-General noted that it was at the initial stages of the implementation, and also negotiating outstanding areas of the phase one which comprised trade in goods and services.
He disclosed that phase two negotiation which would start around July or August would focus on intellectual property rights, competition policy, women in trade and digital trade.
According to him, these are the new generation trade issues that will be the next area of focus.
Noting that the Ambition was that by 15 years from now 97 per cent of products traded in Africa should be at zero duty, Mene, however, described it as a very ambitious objective, which would boost intra Africa Trade by reducing barriers to trade.
“I think Africans should be patient and understand that we are in the initial stages of significance to go together under a single set of rules.
“We will learn from the experience of European Union (EU) that it has taken the EU 72 years to get to this point of market interventions that it enjoyed today.
“What we are doing is not an easy task, it is time consuming, it requires patience to see results in years to come.
“I am not worried about the slowness because typically negotiations and implementation of trade agreement is not something that happens overnight,” he said.
According to him, the AU Assembly of Heads of States and Government give us six months to conclude the outstanding work, we have made a lot of progress.
He expressed confidence that when the head of states convened again in July in Chad, the secretariat would be able to report its conclusion on the task they gave for phase one while ready to start phase two.
Nigeria has ratified the AfCFTA agreement and deposited its AfCFTA instrument of ratification with the AU Commission Chairperson in December 2020.
Of the 55 AU member states, only Eritrea has yet to join.