The secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene has said Uganda’s private sector is in good position to benefit from AfCFTA’s intra-Africa trade initiative.
Mene made the remarks on Monday during a private sector dialogue on harnessing opportunities presented by AfCFTA at Serena Hotel, Kampala.
The dialogue was organised by the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI), Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives, Uganda Manufacturers Association, with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Speaking at the event, Mene noted that for so long, Africa has been facing the challenge of fragmentation of the rules that have prohibited intra-Africa trade, the same rules that have bared Uganda’s exports particularly milk from getting access to continental markets beyond East Africa.
He, However, revealed that AfCFTA has implemented different tools to enable intra-Africa trade particularly in the area of agriculture and agro-processing so that the continent’s 1.3 billion-people-market becomes globally competitive.
“We are going to make sure that we use the rules of AfCFTA to create an integrated market for our products, our services as Africans. We cannot have agricultural products from other parts of the world available at much better rates for the African continent,” Mene said.
He observed that there is a lot of potential especially in Uganda’s pharmaceuticals and also in the automotive sector value chains particularly batteries. This, he said presents Uganda a perfect opportunity to benefit from AfCFTA.
“This is important. The world is transitioning into electric vehicles, who are potentially the drivers of the global auto sector in the next 20-30 years. It is going to be those countries that are be able to produce the components that are required to power electric vehicles,” Mene said.
Speaking at the same event, the president of Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI), Olive Kigongo noted they currently have a project with UNDP that has successfully created awareness of AfCFTA as well as strengthening capacity of Ugandans to trade under the AfCFTA.
She further highlighted that they are training over 300 women-led SMEs on market opportunities and prospects under AfCFTA, a training which is expected to conclude at the end of this month.
From the trainings, Kigongo said they have so far, been able to observe that AfCFTA will undoubtedly enable Uganda’s private sector especially the women-led SMEs to benefit from the merits that come with women inclusion.
She added that AfCFTA presents an opportunity for Uganda’s exports to benefit from wide-continent market
“Much of Uganda’s exports are concentrated within the East African markets (41% of Uganda’s exports)..Therefore AFCFTA presents a promising offer for continued wide commercial markets access for Ugandan firms to significantly expand their exports to new markets.” Kigongo said.
Elsie Attafuah, the Resident Representative UNDP Uganda noted that whereas Africa has experienced strong growth and trade performance in the last two decades, poverty and inequality continue to increase, and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
She, however, said there is a silver lining since AfCFTA offers an opportunity that presents a promising offer of continent-wide market access for all African countries including Uganda.
“Trading under the AfCFTA represents a momentous milestone for our African people who have been yearning for the economic integration of this great continent. Many years ago, the forebears of Africa’s integration dreamed of times such as this when the continent would come together for a common purpose and put the interests of Africa at the fore – so that the wealth of the continent can work for its people, creating and capturing value, diversifying the product range and export base,” Attafuah said.
The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area bringing together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to create a single market for the continent.
AfCFTA’s aim is to enable the free flow of goods and services across the continent and boost the trading position of Africa in the global market.
According to Mene, they are in the final stages of the implementation of AfCFTA. He also says they are in the process of completing the three protocols of AfCFTA; Protocol of competition, investment potential and facilitation and protocol on intellectual property rights.