The Guardian | 20 November 2021
AfCFTA rolls out $10b fund as buffer for tariff loss
By Helen Oji
African countries are losing $5 billion yearly as costs of currency convertibility, Secretary-General of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, has said.
Besides, Mene disclosed that AfCFTA, in collaboration with Afreximbank, has plans to roll out a $10 billion adjustment fund for countries that might suffer revenue loss arising from the elimination of tariffs on goods produced in the continent.
Speaking during a press briefing at the ongoing Intra-African Trade Fair in Durban, South Africa, yesterday, Mene said AfCFTA was working closely with Afreximbank to establish a Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), which would enable Africans to transact in real-time on a digital platform with entities in other parts of the continent using their local currency to ensure successful implementation of the trade pact.
He explained that Afreximbank was providing liquidity worth over $1 billion for the settlement as well as establishing the technology, while AfCFTA was providing the legal framework.
“This is the very first time we have a single set of rules for trade and investment. So, we need to leverage on this single instrument to make sure that we maximise the benefit,” she said.
On the tariff adjustment fund, Mena said it would provide direct interventions for various sectors, especially in the areas of staff retraining, machinery processing and procurement of the latest technology, among others.
He said the trade intervention facility was at the final stage of negotiation, noting that the fund would be made available immediately after both parties conclude the negotiations.
After much anticipation, AfCFTA came into effect on January 1, eliminating tariffs on 90 per cent of goods produced on the continent.
For the agreement to be successful, countries must address more nuanced non-tariff barriers and build regional value chains. Having been pushed back six months from its initial implementation date, trading under the AfCFTA has commenced.
The trade agreement is expected to be mutually beneficial, as importers had over the years struggled to import due to duties and costs created by their governments.
Mene stressed that the intervention fund would be managed under a professional arrangement by a joint venture while disbursement would commence by next year.
He stated that much of African trade involves exporting raw commodities outside of the continent and importing the finished products.
According to him, for the continent to create an internal market for African products, it must begin to manufacture value-added goods and deepen its regional value chains.
He also stated that African markets must discover their areas of specialisation and value addition in their local market before the continent would witness any real inter-African trade.
“It took Europe 72 years to reach the depth market and economic integration is enjoying today. We are not yet there but we want to get to the level of market integration one day.
“If we consolidate our market of 1.3 billion people by the year 2030, close to $7 trillion GDP, our continent will be the seventh or eight largest economies in the world and become as competitive as China and India,” he said.