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Trade operations under the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) have begun, with Kenya shipping its first batches of locally-made car batteries and tea to Ghana. This process was made possible following the launch of the Guided Trade Initiative by the AfCFTA’s Secretariat – an initiative aimed at testing and demonstrating the efficacy of the legal framework of the AfCFTA instruments and obtaining feedback from the institutional national systems in the participating countries.
As part of this initiative, eight countries were selected to provisionally start trading goods under the AfCFTA on a pilot basis: Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Tunisia, and Egypt. The selection of the countries was meant to ensure representation from each of the existing trading blocks and focused on those countries that have their tariff offers on goods fully approved and officially published.
The Secretariat will assist these countries to test AfCFTA trading documents and procedures on pre-selected shipments of goods by navigating through the process of customs clearance, including reduced tariff treatment in the receiving AfCFTA countries. To further facilitate this process, the Secretariat has published an e-Tariff Book and a “rules of origin” manual on its website. The e-Tariff Book lists the published tariff schedules while the manual is used to determine the origin status of goods which is key in ascertaining whether goods qualify for preferential treatment under the AfCFTA.
Kenya has identified the following other products for trading under AfCFTA: confectionery, leather bags, incinerators, beaded products, vehicular filters, textiles, sisal fibre, avocadoes, and fresh produce. On the other hand, the customs division in Ghana has issued its first certificate of trading to a tiles manufacturing company, Keda Ghana Ceramics Company Limited, to export a consignment of its products to Cameroon. It is also expected that Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) will start exporting Palm Kernel Oil to Kenya soon. Rwanda has also started exporting coffee to Ghana after Igire Coffee was issued with the rules of origin certificate.
The remaining countries forming part of the pilot programme, i.e., Tunisia, Egypt, Tanzania, Cameroon and Mauritius, have yet to start trading under the AfCFTA. This delay has been attributed to the rules of origin assessment which, without the proper expertise, may be considered nuanced and time-consuming.
The AfCFTA provides a good opportunity for investment as it allows any business to benefit from preferential treatment as long as the goods traded meet the rules of origin requirement.
Should you have any questions regarding the information in this legal alert, please do not hesitate to contact, Luisa Cetina and Daniel Ngumy.
Mdathir Issa Timamy – Trainee Lawyer