THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) secretariat have agreed to establish a partnership framework to buttress the implementation of the historic continental trade deal.
The AfCFTA regime entered into force on 1 January this year with the aim of eliminating over 90 percent of tariffs on goods and to progressively liberalise trade in services in order to promote production of all goods.
Technical teams from the AfCFTA and Comesa are expected to start working immediately on the framework by establishing committees to deal with specific aspects of the partnership, said Comesa in a latest update.
This was resolved during the first visit by the AfCFTA secretary general Mr Wamkele Mene to the Comesa secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia on Tuesday. Mr Mene was received by his Comesa counterpart Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe and senior members of staff.
In his remarks, Mr Mene said Comesa has well established and strong institutions to support successful implementation of the AfCTA. Comesa is the largest regional economic community in Africa, hence an important building bloc for the success of the continental trade deal, he said.
Mr Mene said the AfCTA provides the best chance for Africa’s development to succeed and stressed the need for Comesa and other regional blocs to embrace the drive
“The priority now is how to work together to push back the frontiers of poverty in our continent,” he said adding that industrial development and deepening intra-Africa trade was among the key areas of focus.
Ms Kapwepwe said Comesa was keen to work with the AfCFTA and other regional economic communities in advancing intra-African trade saying this was the only way the continent could reduce poverty and enhance development.
“We need to work together to deepen intra-Africa trade as this is the only answer to the many challenges that our continent is facing,” she said.
“Trade in many areas such as agriculture products and developing our manufacturing and industrial sectors can greatly assist Africa.”
Ms Kapwepwe called for the extension of the piloting of the Pan African Payment System from the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) region to the rest of Africa as one way that the two organisations can begin to collaborate.
Other cooperation areas include partnerships with Comesa institutions such as the Trade and Development Bank, the African Trade Insurance Agency, the Comesa Competition Commission and the Comesa Business Council.
Ms Kapwepwe outlined some of the key challenges affecting regional free trade such as dependency on development partners for funding programmes, slow ratification of instruments, high cost of doing business and inadequate infrastructure.