Stakes are high to launch the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) this year, says Francis Mangeni, Director of Trade and Customs at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). “This self-imposed burden is quite heavy but not insurmountable and the world is watching to see if we will meet the deadline of launching this year,” says Mangeni.
The CFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, thus paving the way to establish a continental customer union and an African customs union. In addition to expanding intra-African trade, CFTA must enhance competitiveness by exploiting opportunities for scale production and continental market access.
Mangeni says the launch could happen by December, if current negotiations took the approach of so-called across-the-board thresholds to establish rules of origin, a sorting criteria to determine the origin of products in a region.
He says it covers more than 5 000 products and only 47% have been classified.
The CFTA will require every African country to eliminate customs duties on at least 90% of its total product lines. Of the remaining 10%, every country can designate some as sensitive, meaning customs duties can only be reduced over a longer period.