By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - Eswatini and Madagascar are the only countries from the SADC region hoping to host the milestone African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat office.
In April, Gambia became the 22nd nation to ratify the AfCFTA, giving the African Union (AU) the number of needed signatures to ratify the agreement and moving Africa closer to have the largest free trade area agreement in the world.
This would result in a creation of a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the continental customs union and the African customs union.
If successfully implemented, the free movement of goods and services are expected to improve the way Africans travel as well as the traditional way of doing business on the continent.
Although not yet operational, the AU has already moved to have the AfCFTA Secretariat offices in place. Information seen by The Southern Timesshow that seven member states, including two from SADC, Eswatini and Madagascar, submitted bids by the deadline of 20 March this year.
Other countries are Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal.
An assessment mission will be visiting these countries during this month on the basis of which a report will be prepared for consideration by the African Union Ministers of Trade and the Extra-Ordinary Summit.
AU’s Directorate of Information and Communication senior communication officer Gamal Karrar said it is the results of the assessment mission which will guide the Extra-Ordinary Summit on deciding the host of the permanent AfCFTA Secretariat.
“We wish all the bidders, good luck,” he said.
The Extra-Ordinary Summit for the ministers of trade is slated for July in Niamey, Niger and Karrar said Africa was on target to launch the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade as well as formally commemorate its first anniversary.
The AU says as the continent commemorates the first year of this large market space, it is being done with concrete achievements.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area is already delivering results well before it enters into force. In December, 2018, we held the First Intra-African Trade Fair, in Cairo, Egypt, which attracted above target exhibitions and business transactions. At the Cairo Fair, we had 1,086 exhibitors, 86 above target. We also had business deals over US$32 billion, well above the target of US$25 billion. This sterling achievement signals the potent force of the Intra-African Trade Fair as a viable platform and brand for trade information as well as actual growth of intra-African trade,” a document from the AU reads.