By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
THE African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will not replace existing regional trading blocs but instead anchor on their successes to accelerate intra-Africa trade and boost its position on the global market.
AfCFTA stands ready to work with regional groupings such as COMESA to promote regional integration and boost Africa’s trading position on the global market.
This is according to AfCFTA Secretary General, Wamkele Mene, who emphasised that the agreement would ride on the notable successes by reginal economic communities to ensure its effective implementation.
Mr Mene said this provided an opportunity to create strong partnerships in an effort to develop Africa.
He said this yesterday in Lusaka during his official visit to the COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe.
“The agreement is not here to replace the regional economic communities. There is a role for regional communities. These are the building blocks of the AfCFTA, we will build on the regional economic communities, particularly where there have been successes such as here in the COMESA secretariat.
“On the contrary, on the basis of this framework agreement, we can develop very strong partnership because it will be very embarrassing for us to go to the Heads of States and say there is no longer need for regional economic communities. It is undesirable and I do not think any Head of State would agree to that,” Mr Mene said.
He stressed that it was time to focus on delivering a continent that required as many successful regional economic communities as possible.
Mr Mene indicated that: “I do not expect that we are going to, all over a sudden, see the role of regional economic communities disappear.”
In response, Ms Kapwepwe said COMESA was ready to work with AfCFTA on a number of issues including trade facilitation, payment systems and development of the protocol on women traders under the agreement.
COMESA, she explained, played a big role in the development and negotiations of various instruments for AfCFTA.
She said COMESA would continue to do so in the forthcoming phase two and three negotiations, stating that a clear collaborative framework had already been initiated by the experts.
“This has been a very fruitful meeting, we have established the basis of moving forward in how we can interact and unpack what needs to be done. Having a framework in place is just a starting point, there are so many elements that we have to look at to make this successful,” she said. Ms Kapwepwe said it was important to work together on areas of capacity building and trade policy research as well as undertake joint programmes in promotion of direct foreign investments and private sector development.