Goods from Rwanda can now access the Gabon, Ghana, Togo, Botswana, and South African markets duty-free, while at the same time, service providers from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Lesotho can issue their services in Rwanda, without barriers to market access or national treatment.
The development was announced on Wednesday, August 16 by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, during the official opening of the Golden Business Forum in Kigali.
Attracting over 1,000 delegates from 40 countries for its second edition, the forum seeks to identify and facilitate business opportunities across Africa, and to promote engagement between developers, investors as well as financiers.
This year’s forum is held under the theme “Creating African Wealth under the African Continental Free Trade Area.”
Minister Ngabitsinze said the AfCFTA is not just another trading bloc. It is a wish that has come to pass and a concept that was once envisioned and is now a reality.
“Therefore, it is imperative that we focus our efforts on finding sustainable and innovative ways that can propel us to the agreement’s full realisation.
“The AfCFTA is meant to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspersons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union.”
He added, “This is not a simple task. It requires a deep level of cohesion in all relevant areas, strong political will, and the determination to move forward regardless of the various stumbling blocks.”
AfCFTA belongs to private sector
Ngabitsinze implored participants ranging from policymakers to captains of industry that there should be a common understanding that the AfCFTA belongs to the Private Sector.
“In order to advance the continent in taking advantage of this opportunity, we require conversations such as these that reaffirm the role and responsibility of the private sector. As policymakers, we are working hard to ensure that businesses are well-integrated and are trading efficiently.
“Our role as government is to put in place the right legal and regulatory frameworks to enable, trade and investment, and economic cooperation. The AfCFTA agreement as it stands creates these avenues through the various protocols, annexes, and regulations.
“Our hope is to see cross-border investments flourish, unique African designs, and cultural heritage protected and promoted across borders, while maintaining a level playing field for our business persons, and SMEs,” Ngabitsinze said.
Inclusion key to realising AfCFTA
Jeanne-Françoise Mubiligi, the Acting Chairperson of Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation, pointed out that, since day one, lots of efforts have been put into accelerating the implementation of AfCFTA.
“As of 2023, a total of 54 African countries have signed the AfCFTA agreement and 46 of them have ratified the agreement. It goes without saying that the African business community is more than ever empowered to increase inclusion through trade at a level never seen before.”
For Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission, although Africa is home to plenty of natural resources, from minerals to oil, the potential remains untapped, owing to little-to-no inclusion of women and youth in the value chain.
“Actually, this wealth resides in the millions of micro small, and medium enterprises majority of whom are women-led and youth startups and still operating in the informal sector.”
Nsanzabaganwa shared similar sentiments with Minister Ngabitsinze, who called for “a tandem strategy” to be able to fully realise the potential of the AfCFTA.
“While prudent monetary and fiscal policy measures are important to sustaining this growth, trade and industrial policy, like the effective implementation of the AfCFTA, working in tandem with broader economic policies can ensure we sustain this growth trajectory.”
He added, “Currently, within the AfCFTA, one has access to a market of 1.3 billion consumers. We are here today to discuss opportunities and promote engagement on how best to take advantage of this access.”
Original Story by New Times: Rwandan goods can now access African markets under AfCFTA preferences – Trade Minister – The New Times