By Tanko Mohammed
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) says the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will harmonise investment rules between its member countries and the rest of the world to create equal opportunity.
Mr Stephen Karingi, the Director for Regional Integration at the ECA made this known at a Nordic-African Business Webcast on Friday in Abuja.
Karingi said that as the AfCFTA was preparing to start trading in 2021, it would ensure its investment rules were coordinated between its member countries and the rest of the world.
According to him, there are currently multiple bilateral treaties between African countries and bilateral investment treaties and between some African countries and the rest of the world.
He however said that negotiations to harmonise such treaties would start after trading, which would begin on Jan.1, 2021, “and be concluded very quickly’’.
“The AfCFTA is a very deep and broad agreement that is not just focusing on trade in goods and trade in services.
“It is looking at those issues that will make this regional integration functional through competition policy, intellectual property rights, investment protocol and also e-commerce.”
He said that the investment protocol to replace the rules would help to attract foreign direct investors to come and establish businesses in Africa.
AfCFTA with its secretariat in Accra Ghana is a free trade area with 54 of the 55 nations as participating members.
The agreement was brokered by the African Union 9(AU) and was signed by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.
It began on May 30, 2019, as the required 22 countries threshold had deposited their instruments of ratification, and currently 30 countries have ratified the AfCFTA.
The free-trade area is reputed to be the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a continental market for goods and services with free movement of people and capital and pave the way for creating a customs union.
It will also grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent.