To accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Trademark EastAfrica and the Kenya State Department for Trade organised a Forum together to discuss the draft national strategy for Kenya to harness the benefits of the AfCFTA.
About 60 participants attended the two-day event in Nairobi. They included government officials, trade economists, university professors, development partners and youth and women’s representatives.
During the meeting, Andrew Mold, Acting Director of ECA in Eastern Africa, explained the ambitious nature of the AfCFTA, saying that AfCFTA is not, as its name denotes, simply a ‘free trade area’; “It encompasses ambitions to proceed to a single unified continental market, with a lot of implications for business – whether that is on investment, on competition, on intellectual property, or free movement.”
The Deputy Director for International Trade in the Kenya Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Gladys Kinyuah, clarified that in 2018 Kenyan trade with the rest of the continent accounted for 38 per cent of exports and just 11.6 per cent of imports.
She argued that the AfCFTA will augment Kenya’s Integrated National Export Development and Promotion Strategy which aims to expand and diversify the country’s export products.
Ahmed Farah, the Kenya Country Director of TradeMark East Africa, recalled the linkage between the AfCFTA and other development initiatives.
He stressed the need to look at the bigger picture, including the handling of existing regional agreements, like the Tripartite between COMESA, SADC and EAC, as fundamental building blocks towards the completion of the AfCFTA.
ECA estimates large potential gains from the AfCFTA for Eastern Africa, including an increase in intra-African exports by over US$ 1 billion and the creation of nearly 2 million new jobs.
In closing his remarks, Mold stressed that the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers and harmonization of standards called for under the AfCFTA represents a unique opportunity to boost intra-regional trade and investment.
“Not only will the AfCFTA boost Kenya’s trade with other African trading partners, but it will also improve the prospects for diversification by increasing the demand for manufactured goods exports”, he added.