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Lusaka, Tuesday, September, 11, 2018: Closer coordination between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities underpins the successful implementation of both the Continental and the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreements.

Secretary General of COMESA Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe and the Africa Union Commissioner of Trade and Industry Amb. Albert Muchanga noted there were many overlapping activities between the COMESA-EAC and SADC Tripartite FTA and the ACFTA that needed to be harmonized.

They were speaking at the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka yesterday when Commissioner Muchanga paid a courtesy call on the Secretary General.

“The narrative of the regional economic communities being the building blocs of the ACFTA, should be promoted to ensure complementarity,” Ms. Kapwepwe said.

Ms. Kapwepwe noted that the AU, as the continental body, was best placed to bring together all the regional economic communities to coordinate activities related to the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

She said: “Such as forum would help in identifying areas of complementarity and overlaps that can be avoided to ensure the activities of the RECs feed into the achievement of their goals and that of the continent.”

Ms Kapwepwe who is the current chair of the Tripartite FTA Task Force, observed that the ACFTA had befitted immensely from the work done under the Tripartite framework and achieved faster progress.

Currently, seven countries have ratified the ACFTA while three have ratified the tripartite FTA. A minimum of 22 ratifications are needed for the ACFTA to enter into force while 14 are required for the TFTA. The seven are Kenya, Rwanda, Eswatini, Chad, Niger, Guinea and Ghana. Under the tripartite FTA, Kenya, Uganda and Egypt have ratified.

The AU Commissioner stressed the importance of having a champion at the head of State level to provide impetus to the ratification of the FTA adding that this had served the AU well and could be replicated at the RECs level.

Further, he said the AU has launched an advocacy campaign to bring more countries to ratify the ACFTA to attain the 22 minimum number of ratifications required. This includes launching a business guide to mobilize the business community to participate in the ACFTA.

“We are confident of getting the 15 remaining Member States to ratify the ACFTA by December this year and start implementation one month after,” Amb. Muchanga assured. “We have set January 31, 2019 as the commencement date of the implementation of the ACFTA.”

Ms. Kapwepwe pledged COMESA action towards mobilizing its member States to ratify both the ACFTA and the Tripartite FTA.

Amb. Muchanga informed that an AU-RECs summit will take place in July 2019 where issues of coordination will be high on the agenda.

The two cautioned on the existential threat to the ACFTA if African countries entered bilateral trade negotiations with global economic powers. This will undermine the successful implementation of the FTAs.