AfCFTA needs robust rules to safeguard African markets

THE success or otherwise of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is dependent on its implementation, the rules of origin and all other arrangement that would guard trading in the market.

Like any programme or policy, such modalities must be robust, inclusive, devoid of discrimination and able to guard against the trade barriers that existed before the agreement came into force.

With the market expected to be the world’s largest free trade area, covering a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, proper implementation cannot be lost on the member countries.

It is in view of this that, Trade unions from four African countries, who are critical stakeholders of the AfCFTA, have made suggestions to ensure that the agreement boosts trade and become the game changer as intended.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ghana, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) and Central Organisation of Trade Unions of Kenya (COTU-K), are asking for tighter rules to safeguard African markets for local products.

For them, the rules are necessary to deal with the risk of capture of the African market by the advanced countries which already have trade agreements with several African countries.

At a press conference in Accra on Sunday, Dr Yaw Baah, Secretary General of TUC, said that the associations were committed to work with the various trade ministries and governments to ensure that the AfCTA increase intra-African trade and investment to promote economic growth and employment creation.

The advocacy of the trade unions is coherent because of the tendency of the market being saturated by foreigners due to the immense advantages that comes with the market.

Already, the foreign countries have started declaring support for their African trade partners to harness the market. This is not bad per say, but the issue here is that they should not take over the market.

We share in this view of the trade unions. The African interest must be paramount to propel the socio-economic development that the continent badly needs.

Last month, the UN in its Economic Development in Africa Report 2019 touched on this same issue, saying that the success of the AfCFTA is dependent on the rules of origin, the criteria needed to determine the nationality of a product.

The rules of origin, serve as the ‘passport’ that enables goods to circulate duty free within a Free Trade Area (FTA), as long as they qualify as originating from the area.

According to the report the rules of origin could break the AfCFTA or be a game changer for the continent as long as they are simple, transparent, business friendly and predictable.

The continent needs this newly created market to boost trade, create the needed jobs, transform the continent and bridge the annual infrastructure financing gap which is about $100 billion.

We, therefore, urge the member countries to safeguard their interest by putting in place stringent measures that would set the continent on the right footing for development and rescue it from the claws and jaws of poverty and under-development in this midst of its resources.

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