Cameroon is in the process of developing its national African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Strategy through an awareness and information sharing workshop jointly organized by the Cameroonian Government and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
More than one hundred stakeholders from the private sector, academia and civil society are associated with this first-of-its-kind workshop in Yaounde in order to formulate practical recommendations for the State and its partners with regards to leveraging the opportunities offered by the creation of a continent-wide free trade area.
Issues relating to Cameroon’s current state of preparedness for the entry into force of the AfCFTA as well as possible spinoffs and fallouts for the subregion, particularly with regard to the effective harmonization of ECCAS and CEMAC preferential tariffs will be specifically addressed. Cameroon’s preparation for the second round of the AfCFTA negotiations will also be at the heart of the exchanges, with particular emphasis on competition issues, intellectual property and investment.
This national consultation, which takes place a few days after the threshold of 22 ratifications, the minimum necessary for the AfCFTA to roll into play, was reached with the ratification of the Gambia, has the three-fold objective of clearly unpacking the AfCFTA agreement, clarifying the stakes for Cameroon and mobilizing national actors around its effective implementation.
It also aims to create a space for exchange between the ministerial departments concerned with the AfFCTA, employers’ unions, consumer associations, civil society organizations and experts specialized in international trade in order to make recommendations to forward to Government.
The national, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral dimension of this workshop makes it possible to cross-fertilize ideas on these issues, and to define a concerted insertion of Cameroon in the African common market.
“The actions you plan to do in Cameroon are timely and very relevant for our own policy objectives” said Cameroon’s Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, in a meeting to preparef for the forum.
He had maintained that it is essential to open up spaces for national dialogues in order to understand the importance of AfCFTA to the Cameroonian economy while also addressing the challenges, risks and opportunities it represents for local stakeholders.
Determined to strengthen its cooperation with member states to support the process of continental integration, ECA, which is co-organizing the meeting, says the AfCFTA represents a potential market of 1.2 billion consumers today, and nearly 2.5 billion in 2050, and is a powerful lever to stimulate exports, industrialization, job creation and economic diversification of the African continent.
“Cameroon’s AfCFTA strategy would have to be aligned with the broader development blueprints of the country and should contribute to the emergence of credible regional value chains as well as support intra-Central Africa’s trade in intermediate and manufactured products”, urged Antonio Pedro, Director of the Subregional Office for Central Africa of ECA, during the visit.
“Cameroon plays a very important role in Africa, in general, and in Central Africa, in particular, in terms of regional integration as well as intra-regional trade and we would like to see it among the first batch of countries ratifying the agreement – to play its rightful role within the context of Africa’s trade agenda,” he added.
African countries party to the AfCFTA Agreement, commit to eliminate tariffs on 90% of the goods they produce destined for other African markets.
In this context, intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 and attract to Cameroon, a large flow of investments and opportunities, especially for certain products such as coffee, tea, banana, pepper, refined oils, soap, brewery products, cement, as well as other manufactured and semi-finished goods.