African Free Trade Tariff Rules Should Be Completed by July

African Free Trade Tariff Rules Should Be Completed by July

Members of Africa’s new free trade area should complete their tariff reduction schedules and finalise essential rules of origin by July, a senior official with the bloc’s secretariat said on Monday.

African countries began officially trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January.

Under the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, members must phase out 90% of tariff lines over the next five to 10 years. Another 7% considered sensitive will get more time, while 3% will be allowed to be placed on an exclusion list.

So far, 41 of the zone’s 54 member states have submitted tariff reduction schedules. Meanwhile, the rules of origin – an essential step for determining which products can be subject to tariffs and duties – must also be completed.

During a panel discussion at the Reuters Next conference on Monday, Silver Ojakol, chief of staff at the AfCFTA Secretariat, said nearly 90% of the rules of origin had now been agreed. “So the remaining 10% must be completed by July this year,” he said. “By the end of June, we should have completed both the tariff scheduling and the rules of origin.”

The remaining obstacles are not simply related to tariff harmonisation. Free trade in Africa is likely to be inhibited by the region’s historic economic and political challenges, including poor road and rail links, political unrest, excessive border bureaucracy and petty corruption.

“The biggest challenge perhaps is infrastructure interconnectivity to ease trading,” Silver Ojakol said. The AFC recently secured $250 million in financing from the U.S. Development Finance Corporation to help fund infrastructure projects on the continent.

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