By GERALD ANDAE
Kenya can now trade most of its goods outside the East African Community (EAC) bloc duty-free after negotiation on tariff lines that will exclude up to 88 percent of products under the continental trade body was concluded.
Member states of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) last week concluded their negotiations on rules of origin, a move expected to significantly cut tariffs on goods moving within the continent.
Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general of AfCFTA, said the conclusion of negotiations on rules of origin was an important milestone towards a successful implementation of the free trade pact.
“Now that we have 87.7 percent of rules of origin agreed, we are now in the position for member states to gazette these legal instruments at the national level so that countries can apply these rules of origin from a customs point of view,” Mr Mene said.
Trading under AfCFTA was to start officially on January 1, 2021, but it could not be implemented as problems regarding rules of origin remained unresolved, making it difficult to identify products that could enjoy the preferential tariff regime under the agreement.
Each trading bloc has its own common external tariff (CET), which it charges on goods coming outside its member states.
For instance, EAC charges up to 50 percent duty on goods being shipped from other regions such as members of the Economic Community for West Africa (Ecowas).
Ebrahim Patel, chairperson of the African Union (AU) Ministers of Trade said the agreed rules of origin would become the basis for full-scale trade among the various member states under the free trade agreement to boost Africa’s economic growth.
“For ordinary citizens on our continent, this means more jobs, more economic opportunities, and Africa’s opportunity to say we want to industrialize. We cannot simply remain the generators of raw materials,” said Mr Patel.
The journey towards Africa Continental Free Trade Area gained momentum in March 2018 when 44 nations signed up during the African Union Extra-Ordinary Session in Kigali, Rwanda.
Kenya was the first country in the eastern Africa region to ratify the trade deal after the National Assembly adapted it.
The treaty will allow free movement of goods and services from one country to another in the continent.