Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has signed a $4.8 million institutional support grant with the African Union (AU) for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The grant, approved by the AfDB’s Board of Directors recently, forms part of the bank’s series of interventions in its lead role to accelerate implementation of the free trade agreement, seen as a major force for integrating the 55-nation continent and transforming its economy.
AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, signed for the continental body, while Obed Andoh Mensah, representing the bank’s Director of the Industrial and Trade Development Department (PITD), signed on behalf of the AfDB, signalling the commencement of implementation.
The meeting of African leaders in Niamey, Niger in early July had launched the implementation phase of the free trade agreement established in March 2018 after it became operational at the end of last May.
At present, 54 states have signed the deal and are set to begin formal trading next July.
Mr Muchanga while urging countries to use the period to complete the parliamentary processes said “The AfCFTA is going to work and we are confident that by July 1, next year, all the 55 countries would have been state parties – meaning, they would have signed and ratified the agreement and intra-African will start.”
He commended the AfDB’s strong and consistent support to ensure smooth implementation of the Agreement, saying the grant would be used judiciously for the rollout of various protocols relating to the structure and mandate of the AfCFTA secretariat.
At present, the AU has an interim secretariat, tasked to provide the organisational structure for the permanent administrative body, its work programme and related issues including its budget.
The Niamey summit announced the siting of the AfCFTA secretariat in Accra, Ghana.
Analysts say the Continental Free Trade deal has the potential to create the largest free-trade area in the world– uniting 55 African countries with a combined gross domestic product of more than $2.5 trillion.