Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, the senior partner and co-founder of Africa Legal Associates, has called on legal practitioners to study the protocols of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to help their clients to take full advantage of it.
Speaking at a virtual roundtable discussion dubbed: ‘AfCFTA: What it means for trade in Africa’, Otchere-Darko stressed that lawyers must collaborate to explain the benefits of the free trade instrument to their clients.
“Business lawyers on the continent must begin to work together because if we don’t work together and don’t get involved in understanding the protocols, the rights and responsibilities of economic actors, we cannot facilitate free movements of goods, people and services.”Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko
Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko noted that the private sector must take collective ownership of AfCFTA in order for it to work.
“AfCFTA is about the private sector. The private sector includes economic actors such as lawyers, industrialists, traders, transporters among others. It’s important that we begin to have these kinds of conversations. We should begin to interact with the secretariat itself about various governments and push them to get things started.”Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko
AfCFTA to Ensure the Competition Protocol Becomes Law
The AfCFTA secretary-general Wamkele Mene in a speech read on his behalf said his outfit is working assiduously to ensure that the competition protocol becomes law to help remove some of the trade barriers.
AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area targeting a single major trade zone on the continent. After full implementation, AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-regional trade to at least 33% from the current 10% in the next decade with a market size of 1.2 billion people and combined GDP of US$2.5trn across the 54 member states.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said it does not foresee a new tax regime for competition under the AfCFTA.
Over the years, there has been growing interest and calls for African countries to intensify cross-border trade. Nearly four years since its launch, AfCFTA – signed on by 44 countries – is yet to realise its major objective of promoting free trade.
Evidence from the Horn, North, and West African regions suggests that African countries face the difficult task of pursuing regional integration efforts while lacking the resources or willingness to control their borders.
Thirty-three African countries adopted the AU protocol on free movement of persons in 2018, however, only four – Rwanda, Niger, Mali and Sao Tome and Principe – have ratified it out of the 15 required to make the protocol come into force. The likes of Ghana, Angola, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea are signatories to the protocol, but are yet to make it work.
The rest are Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, and Gambia.
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