By Ndey Sowe
Ousman Bojang, the Director of Trade at the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment (MoTIE), said The Gambia is committed to the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“On the basis of the evidence that demonstrates ample benefits for intra-African trade especially for small countries like ours, the Government of The Gambia stands ready to support the successful implementation of the AfCFTA at all levels,” he disclosed.
He made the remarks on Wednesday, 10th March, 2021 during a daylong sensitization for members of the Network of Financial and Tax Reporters and media practitioners on the AfCFTA supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the aforesaid ministry. The day long sensitization programme took place at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) conference hall, Bakau.
The AfCFTA is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing as of 1st January 202. The continental free trade area agreement, signed by 54 African countries, is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
The Secretariat of AfCFTA is in Accra, Ghana. It was commissioned and handed over to the AU by the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo on August 17, 2020 in Accra.
The Gambia was the 22nd country to ratify the agreement out of 28 of the 54 countries. 90% tariff lines are to be liberalized within 5 years for developing countries and 10 years for least developed countries like The Gambia.
Bojang said the adaptation of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA is an important milestone in the history of the African continent.
He remarked: “It is our collective desire to promote continental development through trade. I am confident that the AfCFTA agreement will not only provide a solid platform for the state parties to work together towards sustainable growth and development, but it will also serve as a platform in mobilizing African support in advancing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha Development Agenda and advocate for stronger multilateral trading system in the interest of all members.”
He said the AfCFTA is being negotiated at a time when the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges.
“It is therefore an opportunity for Africa to re-organize to boast intra-Africa trade while continuing to participate actively with a strong unified position in resolving the challenges of multilateral trading system,” he said.
Bojang said regional trade integration has long been a strategic objective for Africa yet, despite some success in eliminating tariffs within regional communities, a range of non- tariff and regulatory barriers still raise transaction costs and limit the movement of goods, service, people and capital across borders through Africa.
He added that barriers to trade continue to limit the growth of trade throughout all African regional groupings. He said by imposing unnecessary costs on exporters, these barriers will raise prices for consumers, undermine the predictability of trade regimes, and reduce investment in the region.
He noted: “It is estimated that intra-Africa trade costs are around 50% higher than in East Asia, and are the highest of intra- regional costs in any developing region.”
Meanwhile, he said the result of these high costs shows that Africa has integrated with the rest of the world faster than with itself.