East African trade lobby eye continental market to spur growth

African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to stimulate investments, growth and pandemic recovery

Nairobi, Kenya | Xinhua | The East African Business Council (EABC), a regional trade lobby, will harness opportunities presented by African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to stimulate investments, growth and pandemic recovery, executives said Wednesday at a virtual forum in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

John Bosco Kalisa, the executive director of EABC said the region stood to gain from the creation of a borderless continental market, subject to tax harmonization, elimination of trade barriers and greater adoption of digital commerce.

Some of the anticipated gains include enhanced cross-border trade, investments, jobs creation, value addition, competitiveness of the private sector, innovation and skills transfer, he added.

Convened by EABC and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the virtual forum sought to spotlight progress towards implementation of the continental free trade area, and its implications for businesses in the region.

Kalisa cited a World Bank study of 2020 which indicated that East African Community member states could generate 8 million additional jobs if they fully participated in the continental free trade market.

He stressed the need for countries in the region to overhaul obsolete tax regimes, harmonize standards, promote value addition of agricultural products and invest in technology to ensure they gain from the continental borderless market.

Simon Kaheru, the vice-chairman of EABC said that the elimination of non-tariff barriers combined with infrastructure upgrade as well as policy and regulatory reforms was key to ensuring the regional bloc gained from vast opportunities to be unleashed through a borderless trading regime.

While noting that intra-African trade currently stood at less than 20 percent, Kaheru said it would increase once the implementation of an African continental free trade area gathers momentum.

Mama Keita, the director of Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa at UNECA said the continental free trade area is expected to spur growth of local manufacturing, economic diversification and enhanced access to capital for start-ups.

According to Keita, the African continental free trade area will also build the resilience of the regional private sector besides tackling unemployment, household poverty and food insecurity.

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Xinhua

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