54 African countries committed to joining AFCFTA  says GCCI CEO

Jan 25, 2021, 11:45 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has disclosed that a total of 54 African nations have committed to joining the Africa Continental-Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), which came into effect on 1st January 2021.

Mr. Alieu Secka made this disclosure recently while presiding the official opening of a one-day Information sharing forum, organised by the Network of Financial and Tax Reporters (NFTR) Gambia Chapter.

He added that 33 countries have already ratified the agreement, saying ‘so far many lack the customs procedures and infrastructure to facilitate tariff-free trade.’

CEO Secka noted the perspectives of business which operate in the region, and are excited the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACTA) will help achieve the dream of 1.2billion people all across our continent, with a combined GDP of USD 2.5 trillion.

Mr. Secka further stated that this effectively is the World largest free-trade  area since  the world Trade  Organization  was formed  in 1995, and potentially  opening  intra-African  trade  by over 52 percent, according to UN Economic  Commission  for Africa.  He said for the Gambia, it gives us tremendous economies of scale especially as a trading nation, which re-exports some 80% of our total imports.  However, we must endeavour to add value to our agricultural produce, improve our standards in processing and packaging, as well as train our youth better and more, if we are to fully benefit from this CFTA. Mr. Secka stated.

According to him at the level of GCCI, we get to hear day –in-day -out how we have all the nice instruments and protocols on free movement of persons and trade totally disregarded by officials on the ground.

According to Mr. Secka in West Africa, since 1979 we have already tried ETLS-ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, which aimed at the operationalization of a free Trade Area.

The ETLS-ECOWAS mechanism was supposed to ensure the free movement of originating products without the payment of customs duties and taxes of equivalent effect on importation into ECOWAS member states.

He disclosed that chambers of commerce are also responsible and guarantors of another great ECOWAS Protocol: on Inter-State Transit Trade, aimed at promoting the transport by road of produce of a given Member state to another Member state, of goods in suspension of duties and taxes under the cover of a single document.

Mr. Secka dilated that the widespread use of discretion on customs policies is one of the biggest issues across the board. Having strong outlined regulations which limit discretion that apply to everybody, would be of great service for both travellers and authorities. The use of favouritism will not occur as well and the usual delays of citizens pushing back and forth with authorities would be limited.

In conclusion Mr. Secka emphasised the need to seize the chance of 2021 and (CFTA) to make a lasting difference to all. Let us change mind-sets of our officials, and tell them from now on, that they are Africans, not Gambians, Senegalese or Guineans.