Arusha. The secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be operationalised in March, next year.
The agreement came into force on May 30, this year, after it was ratified by the required 22 African Union (AU) countries.
This was revealed here on Monday at the start of a symposium on the trade agreement which attracted scholars and experts from across the continent.
The secretariat of the intra-African trade body will be established in Accra, Ghana as appointment of the secretary general is underway.
“Structure and budget of the secretariat has been approved”, said Dr. David Luke, the coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre based in Addis Ababa.
He said it has been proposed that AfCFTA establish office in each state party; countries which have signed and ratified the agreement.
“Opening of an office in each country would drive the whole process to the ground making the country’s focus consistent,” he said.
The continental trade agreement was signed by 44 of the 55 AU member countries during a summit of the African leaders in Kigali, Rwanda early last year.
The number of the countries which have who ratified the process has gone up to 28 by last month from 22 in May this year.
Tanzania is yet to append its signature for ratification although it was one of the 44 countries which signed the agreement in Kigali in March 2018. AfCFTA main objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
The 55 nation African continent has a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated to be $ 2.5 trillion.
“The agreement is legally binding to states which have ratified it”, Dr Luke said at a symposium organized Pan African Centre for Policy Studies (PACPS), a think tank based in Arusha.
He said once ratified, it has to get a parliamentary approval of each country’s legislative body before it is fully implemented.
Speakers at the event welcomed the initiative which they said would consolidate the continent’s economy through accelerated trade and investments flow.
However, they faulted many governments for abusing the spirit of Pan Africanism and trade protocols through excessive border controls.
“Politics has constantly trumped politics in Africa”, lamented Dr Catherine Biira from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi.
She said re-awakened the spirit of Pan Africanism by infusing “values of economy” into it instead of shouting rhetorics of unity.
Ms Achieng Akena from a Nairobi-based think tank called International Refugees Rights Initiative stressed the need to strengthen the regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa.
The leading RECs in Africa include the East African Community (EAC), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
There are also the Common Market for Southern and Eastern African States (Comesa),Inter-governmental Authority on Development and others.