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Enthusiasm for regional integration, as ECA and Trademark East Africa conduct national forum on the AfCFTA

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Trademark East Africa (TMEA) launched the National impact assessment report that presented the effects of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Uganda, during a national AfCFTA stakeholder consultation meeting on 31 October 2019.

Emphasizing that regional platforms are “the way to go” for developing countries to overcome trade challenges, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives; Amelia Kyambadde, used her opening statement as an opportunity to applaud the ECA/TMEA partnership in supporting regional integration in Eastern Africa.

Addressing key players from Government, civil society, academia and private sector, she suggested that the AfCFTA is an instrument for harvesting Africa’s many prospects, saying:

I see more opportunities in Africa than any other continent in the next ten years. AfCFTA is the way to go. I foresee interconnectivity, industrial growth, competition, entrepreneurial development, improved negotiation as a region, regional value chains, standards, and an opportunity to improve future negotiations”.

 The Minister deemed the AfCFTA well aligned with Government priorities of transfoming Uganda into a developed economy through building productive capacity and market integration.

 Having given credit to the crucial role Uganda played as chief negotiator and champion during the AfCFTA negotiations, the Minister gladly reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the implementation of the agreement, which will be supported through various trade promotion and capacity enhacement programs.

 What the AfCFTA means to Uganda

 Uganda’s enthusiasm for AfCFTA is well founded. The forum proceeded to present an Impact Assessment Report, set out by Andrew Mold, Acting Director of the ECA Office for Eastern Africa. With Uganda exporting close to 51% of her exports to the African market, the findings projected welfare gains post-AfCFTA, clearly demonstrating the importance of the AfCFTA to Uganda.

Since intra-African trade is much more focused on manufactured and industrial goods, the AfCFTA will promote industrialisation by virtue of increasing intra-continental trade. With this being is an important goal for structural transformation according to the Ugandan National Development Plan, the cross-sectoral forum discussed the results of the impact assessment report. Delegates provided feedback on the role of the different stakehoders in Uganda, deliberating on policy focus options that will enable Uganda to fully take advantage of the AfCFTA opportunity, with an implementation programme and clear strategy 

Making the most out of AfCFTA

To get the most out of the AfCFTA in Uganda, the role of manufacturing, services and value addition were rightly flagged up as priority areas to consider. These elements of the Free Trade Area will be deal-breakers in improving Uganda’s terms of trade and trade potential in the continental market.

The forum also established the importance of inclusivity in trade, especially for small scale cross border traders, youth and women. Other considerations were: removal of trade impedients; regionalization of local content; addressing structural adjustment challenges are essential for balanced development and policy coherence.

The stakehoders also discussed how to make the most out of the electronic payment systems that the East African Community (EAC) has put in place to lower transaction costs for intra-regional trade.

With these themes in mind, Country Director of TMEA Uganda, Moses Sabiiti presented the country work program on trade facilitation. He showcased TMEA’s partnership with the Government of Uganda and other development partners like DANIDA on trade facilitation initiatives.

The meeting concluded on a positive note, with Ms. Edith Mwanje, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of East African Community Affairs, reiterating that EAC trade has been growing as compared to other regions; the AfCFTA will provide a good deal to build on the achievements of the EAC, she said.

The Permanent Secretary urged all Government Agencies and Departments and the private sector to fully take advantage of the AfCFTA opportunity. She reminded the forum that it’s important to sensitize the public on various initiatives for Uganda to implement the Agreement.

Source: UNECA

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark East Africa.

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