Zambia did not sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it was still conducting internal negotiations on some protocols in the agreement, a Zambian official said Thursday.
On Wednesday, 44 African countries signed the agreement to launch the AfCFTA during an extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) in Kigali, Rwanda.
Zambia's foreign minister Joseph Malanji said Zambia only signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the agreement. He said in a statement that Zambia had negotiated the protocol on goods and services and the dispute settlement mechanism, while the remaining protocols, including on trade competition, investment and the intellectual property, were yet to be negotiated.
The minister, however, said the signing of the declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African countries in the quest to improve intra-Africa trade.
Meanwhile, Zambia's commerce, trade and industry minister Christopher Yaluma said in the same statement that Zambia will not sign the protocol on the free movement of people as the country was not ready for it.
He said the government would only engage in treaties that had a positive bearing on Zambian people especially the youth and women. The decision to form the AfCFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while negotiations were launched by the AU in 2015.
The AfCFTA was aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. According to the AU, this will pave the way for the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union. The AfCFTA could create an Africa market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
The agreement, after being signed, will be submitted for ratification by state parties before it can enter into force.
AU targets to ensure effective implementation of continental free trade area within one year
The African Union (AU) targets to start implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) within a year, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga has said.
The implementation of the AfCFTA requires at least 22 countries to ratify the agreement to establish the free trade area, Muchanga told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on the AfCFTA on Wednesday.
Forty-four African countries signed the agreement on the AfCFTA during the one-day extraordinary session in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda. The agreement will be submitted for ratification by state parties in accordance with their domestic laws.
"Our target is to ensure that within a year, a minimum number of 22 African countries have ratified the AfCFTA for its effective implementation," said Muchanga.
"After, we shall have a comprehensive plan for the AfCFTA that outlines what topics will be discussed and reviewed during the AfCFTA implementation," he said, adding that these will include among others discussions on tariff reductions to ensure smooth trading under the continental free trade area.
The decision to form the AfCFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while AfCFTA negotiations were launched by the AU in 2015.
The AfCFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. This, according to the AU, will pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.