Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) finally kicked off on January 1, 2021, to a lot of excitement, after being delayed for six months due to the pandemic.
The AfCFTA unites an estimated $3 trillion market and could help to realize more than $84 billion in untapped intra-African exports, according to a report by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Countries now have to harmonize customs and tariff regimes.
But Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA secretariat admits that restrictions prompted by Covid-19 have slowed down progress.
Africanews journalist Neusa e Silva interviewed Wamkele during his trip to Angola recently.
Africanews: Welcome, Mr. Secretary-General. With the launch of the continental free trade area, there is also the issue of the single passport to facilitate movement and a single currency for transactions? How far with this?
Wamkele: The protocol on the movement of persons is a separate instrument, it is not part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it is an instrument that was negotiated separately, it has not yet entered into force, so it is not moving as quickly as we would like to see, that is because countries have to make their own considerations about ratifying it, but the underlying point that you make is absolutely correct, that we need to move quickly on the free movement of persons to enable commerce and trade to be accelerated on the African continent. The single currency is something that is a long-term objective, I am not in a position to say when it will happen, what I can say is that, in the interim, along with Afreximbank, we are taking the step of establishing a pan-African payments and settlements platform, which will be a digital platform for facilitating trade,