CYNTHIA MWALE, Washington, USA
THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has urged the American business community to support the push for the continental free trade area (CFTA) in order to benefit from increased intra-regional trade from Africa.
In 2012, African Union (AU) leaders endorsed a plan to set up CFTA by 2017 which will be a key component of the AU’s strategy to boost trade within the region by at least 25-30 percent in the next decade.
Addressing a side event at the just-ended United States –Africa Business Forum here on Friday, COMESA assistant secretary general for programmes Kipyego Cheluget said establishing Africa’s first FTA with support from the US is an aspiration that still remains.
“The expectation then was that on top of bolstering unfettered intra-African trade, there will be a scenario when US-based firms will insert Africa into global value chains by investing in, and operating assembly, supply and distribution networks across African borders.
“That anticipation has not changed: As Africa makes progress on negotiating a CFTA, America’s private sector must seize the opportunity to propel the process further along, investing in future demand for American consumer goods from a common market of over one billion people,” Dr Cheluget said.
He said opportunities for America to directly and indirectly boost Africa’s regional integration exist in various forms; in further adjusting African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA)’s origin rules so that regional assembly and light manufacturing can thrive among AGOA beneficiaries.
Dr Cheluget said this will entail infusing resources into export-oriented agro-processing, and in bringing more American logistics companies to support the World Trade Organisation- Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO -TFA).
He also urged the delegates that alongside investing in the TFA, the US has an opportunity to undertake more capacity building to impact the millions of fast urbanising African youths.