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African States Press For Creation Of Free Trade Zone 

By Jude Fuhnwi in Malabo, E. Guinea
The establishment of an African Free Trade Zone is on schedule as countries match policy and legislative frameworks to achieve this goal, the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram Acyl, said on Monday, June 23.
Acyl was speaking during a meeting with journalists at the Sipopo Conference Centre in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on the sidelines of the African Union Summit on Agriculture and Food Security.
"African countries have put national structures in place to promote intra-African trade and movement of people. The move will accelerate industrial transformation in Africa," Acyl told reporters.
According to Acyl, African countries have resolved to eliminate barriers that hinder cross border trade and movement of skilled labour. She added that the AU will ensure that no external agreement disrupts Africa’s regional integration or trade endeavours.
"Since 2012 when the Heads of State adopted an action plan to promote intra-African trade, African countries have set up inter- agency coordination teams and infrastructure to attain this goal as per the timeline of 2017," noted Acyl.
The establishment of a Free Trade Zone is part of the Agenda 2063 prepared by AU member states in 2013 to outline their vision for the next fifty years. Acyl said that different stakeholders were consulted during the formulation of agenda 2063 on economy, politics and trade.
The commissioner noted that creation of a robust continental trade bloc was among key priorities during the initial phase of agenda 2063 implementation. However, she said it is rather unfortunate that some countries refuse to open their borders for fear of exploitation “but we need to have this free movement of goods and people” she stated.
"Consultations have reached a critical phase to facilitate the creation of a Continental Free Trade Zone. Governments agree that movement of goods and services will transform economies," said Acyl.
She lauded the efforts of some countries in East Africa for beginning to translate the idea into reality by paving way for free movements of goods and persons, through a one stop border that connects Mombasa in Kenya, Kampala in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda “trucks load goods and pay only once, kind of custom duties” said Acyl, adding “That is a one stop border”
This is contrary to what pertains in Central and West Africa. Equatorial Guinea is yet to guarantee the free movement of goods and people along its borders. In recent times, the country has not permitted free movements in the Central African Region by closing its borders with Cameroon and other neighbouring countries. A situation described by the Trade Commissioner as lack of political will.
“I think political will is really necessary at the level of implementation. It is not about sitting here and adopting decisions. We must ensure that we make these our priorities in our countries” said Acyl.
2014, the “year of agriculture and food security”, as declared by the African Union must be approached in a more holistic way in order to achieve the goals set aside by the Union “even though we talk of agriculture and food security, we should also discuss peace and security” said Acyl. 
According to her, Heads of State and Government should work together with business men to ensure that there is an enabling environment for trade. She said Africa has 60percent of arable land which can be exploited for agriculture, underlining that “we should see agriculture as a business”
Meantime, the High Level Committee on African Trade, HATC, met this Wednesday, June 25, to evaluate what member states have done and craft a roadmap for implementing the Continental Free Trade Area, CFTA.
Meanwhile, the African Agribusiness Forum was opened in Malabo, on Sunday, June 22 by the Africa Union Commission’s, AUC, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Commissioner, H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace. 
Tumusiime urged stakeholders to focus on enhancing positive changes towards prosperity that directly impact on the livelihoods of African citizens through an inclusive agricultural transformation process.
The African Agribusiness Forum is meant to enhance private sector engagement and inclusive agribusiness transformation in Africa.
“This forum will, therefore, provide an opportunity for men, women and youth stakeholders in the agribusiness sector to discuss and develop concrete strategies for the realization of these recommendations,” Mrs Tumusiime said.

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