The 22nd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts of the Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (ICE 2018) opened in Kigali Tuesday with Rwanda’s Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana, urging African countries to speedily ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Mr. Ndajimana said the AfCFTA was crucial to Africa’s inclusive growth and prosperity hence the need for more countries to urgently ratify the agreement so it can go into force.
Forty-nine of Africa’s 54 countries have so far signed the agreement establishing a free trade area that is seen as vital to the continent’s economic development. At least 22 member countries should ratify the agreement before it can be implemented. So far only 12 have ratified since signing the accord in March, two of them from East Africa.
“We were all very happy with the outcome of the AU Summit here in this building in March this year,” said Minister Ndajimana. “However, this is not enough. We need ratifications to move forward. Our efforts will come to nothing if we do not achieve 22 ratifications by March next year.”
He added that the theme of the meeting; “Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From Vision to Action”, was timely, allowing governments in the region to meet with experts to discuss what the agreement means for both region and continentand build consensus on the way forward. The Minister said the AfCFTA symbolised ‘our progress toward the ideal of African unity’.
For her part, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanie Biha, said for Africa to reach new horizons more collective efforts were needed.
“Countries must ratify the agreement, implement it, and put in place the necessary reforms to enable the economic transformation we are looking for,” she said.
Ms. Biha told delegates that the ECA was currently supporting member States in their efforts to make the AfCFTA a reality.
“And we will be setting up national dialogues so that governments, civil society and the private sector can come together to discuss the way forward. Building a consensus behind the AfCFTA is the only way to achieve its implementation,” the ECA Deputy Chief said.
The ICE 2018 is focusing on discussing macroeconomic and social conditions in Eastern Africa; implementing the AfCFTA; trade facilitation, services trade, leveraging the AfCFTA for greater gender inequality, and the Protocol on the Free Movement of people.
High-level representatives of Eastern Africa member States, regional economic communities (RECs) and
intergovernmental organizations are attending the meeting as well as private sector representatives, international institutions, civil society organisations, media, and other relevant stakeholders.
Contact : Didier Habimana (+250 788 493 377), Priscilla Lecomte (+250 733 111 321)
The subregional office for East Africa serves 14 countries: Burundi, Comores, RD Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.