KEPSA participated in the Private Sector National Workshop on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement held on 23rd February 2023 at a Nairobi hotel. The forum was organized by the East African Business Council (EABC) to enhance the awareness of the AfCFTA agreement and its annexes to businesses as well as bring the Kenya private sector on board to take up trade opportunities under the agreement.
In his remarks, Mr Victor Ogalo, KEPSA Deputy CEO strongly advocated for the need to move from talking into action noting that many state declarations have turned out to be just ceremonial.Mr Ogalo pointed out that the phrase ‘free trade’ used among the EAC nations is misapplied because the trade is not fully free.He challenged the EAC partners to first organize and integrate within and then advance to the AfCFTA.He concluded by calling upon the EAC member states to be deliberate in supporting local growing industries and to work together to ensure free movement within the region if the region must thrive.
Mr.John Bosco, EABC CEO acknowledged the region’s deeper commitment to integration and investment in productive infrastructure as some of the region’s strengths. He further lauded the progress already made with 46 countries out of the 54 countries who signed the agreement submitting their instruments of trade.He singled out information asymmetry as the major challenge calling upon the partner states to fully remove the Non-Tariff Barriers to ensure deeper integration within the region as a precedence to the AfCFTA agreement.
The Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy at Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM),Mr.Job Wanjohi, mentioned that AfCFTA presents opportunities to build an export-led economy and to improve the export-to-GDP ratio for Kenya and the region. He then welcomed the participants to discuss the challenges and opportunities the trade agreement presents to develop the region’s export base. Mr Auni Bhaiji, the Goodwill Ambassador on transport and logistics, urged the EAC region to harmonize and treat each other as one including through re-evaluating the punitive tax regimes.
In his keynote address, the chief guest Mr Mucai Kunyiha mentioned that the role of EABC is to bring together the private sector and educate businesses on the benefits of regional agreements. He then noted that regional trade has the political, administrative and commercial spheres which must integrate to ensure success. He urged the region to start the preparation for AfCFTA while being alive to the challenges that come with it while calling upon the participants to share their experiences in the regional trade.
During the forum, presentations on a wide range of topics were delivered, including the background of AfCFTA, its establishment, objectives, principles, and scope, the role of the private sector in the success of the trade agreement, the structure of the protocol on trade in goods, and the protocol on trade in goods annexes.