The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will establish a partnership framework to support the implementation of the continental trade regime.
In a statement, COMESA said the technical teams from the two organizations are expected to start working immediately on the framework by establishing committees to deal with specific aspects of the partnership.
“This was resolved during the first visit by the Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat 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,” read part of the statement.
It also noted that Mene observed that COMESA has well established and strong institutions to support implementation of the AFCFTA besides being the largest regional economic community in Africa, hence an important building bloc for the success of the continental trade regime.
Mene stressed the need for COMESA and other regional economic communities to support implementation of the continental trade agreement and said the AFCFTA provides the best chance for Africa’s development to succeed.
He added: “The priority now is how to work together to push back the frontiers of poverty in our continent. Industrial development and deepening intra-Africa trade are among the key areas of focus.”
Mene also noted that the important role that regional economic communities will continue to play as the building blocs for the successful implementation of the continental trade regime citing COMESA, was one of those that AFCFTA will count on owing to its strong institutions established over the years to facilitate regional trade.
COMESA Secretary General Kapwepwe assured that her organization was keen to work with the AfCFTA and other RECs in advancing intra-African trade as 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. Trade in many areas such as agriculture products and developing our manufacturing and industrial sectors can greatly assist Africa,” Kapwepwe said.
The statement also noted that she 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 organizations can begin to collaborate.
Other cooperation areas could 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.
Kapwepwe also identified some of the key challenges affecting regional free trade as dependency on development partners for funding programmes, slow ratification of instruments, high cost of doing business and inadequate infrastructure.
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.
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