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AfCFTA: Sec-Gen pledges to work with national presidents to align countries’ local laws with pact

…says 3 Asian auto giants to establish Centres of Excellence in Africa

As African nations prepare to kick off with an integrated regional bloc market, the Secretary-General of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, on Monday said there are plans by his secretariat to work with national presidents of various African countries in a bid to align some country’s local laws that are in conflict with the continental Free Trade Area pact.

The AfCFTA senior official who is on Nigeria in his first official visit since he was elected Secretary-General gave this information when he paid a visit to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, in Abuja.

Nigeria had its borders shut for over a year against perceived trade defaults from some of its West African neighbours, with Ghana Investment Promotion Council also demanding as a requirement from foreign retail traders $1 million business registration fees and taxes. Industry analysts said these trade conflict concerns could deal a huge blow on the wider continental regional trade.

But, the Secretary-General affirmed that there are plans by the Secretariat to constructively engage African heads of state in addressing these notable concerns and aligning local laws to streamline properly with the AFCTA pact.

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The Secretary-General who called Nigeria a main pillar in the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement said the secretariat will not allow the developed world to distort local markets via the AFCTA pact.”If we don’t bring on board MSMEs and informal sector, we won’t make headway,” he said.

He further added that the secretariat will work hard to deal with concerns of transhipment, dumping, and enforcement of the rules of origin in order not to undermine the continental local industries.

“My ambition is that we implement this to the benefit of everyone. If we don’t address these concerns, our young population will reject this agreement,” he said.

According to him, the Secretariat is already engaging three auto giants from Asia who had informed of plans to establish continental centres of excellence and regional auto manufacturing hub, adding that such investments would prioritise enforcement of rules of origin to domesticate the market.

He assured that his visit would engage the organised private sector and civil liberty organisations in order to seek further ways of ensuring the success of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

He assured further on continuous engagement with other stakeholders on specific sectors to be decentralised so that specific countries could play roles that drive benefits for their local industries.

In March 2018, over 40 countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement. Once fully implemented, the AFCTA is expected to cover all 55 African countries, with a combined GDP of about $2.2 trillion.

The Secretary-General expressed further optimism that with proper domestication of the agreement, the continent is expected to raise its GDP to $7 trillion by 2025.

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