A Roundtable with African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Hon. Albert Muchanga
Caption: A cross section of delegates at the roundtable with African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Hon. Albert Muchanga
On Monday, October 4, 2019, CCA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Africa Business Center co-hosted a small roundtable with visiting African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga. Commissioner Muchanga leads African Union (AU) preparations for the African Continental Free Trade Arrangement (AfCFTA) and he briefed the group on its status. CCA President Florie Liser, Chamber Senior Vice President, John Murphy and Assistant USTR for Africa Constance Hamilton also gave remarks.
Commissioner Muchanga painted an optimistic and ambitious vision for the AfCFTA. He hoped Eritrea would soon sign on, bringing all 55 African states into the agreement. While the AfCFTA was officially launched on July 7, 2019, trade under this new arrangement is scheduled to start on July 1, 2020. The AU is working on initiatives to: clarify rules of origin, offer a schedule of tariff concessions (covering 90 percent of all goods by 2025), make specific commitments in trade in services, provide online monitoring of non-tariff barriers, establish an African Trade Observatory, and develop a payment settlement system for intra-African trade.
In addition, the AU hopes to finalize an aviation agreement that creates a single African aviation market and to agree to a protocol on the free movement of people, Hon. Muchanga said. A protocol on investment is under negotiation, as are arrangements on competition policy and intellectual property rights protection. Hon. Muchanga noted the need to align trade regimes at the continental, regional and national levels.
The Commissioner saw good investment prospects for U.S. companies in Africa, in: infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, education, tourism, creative industries, trade services. He hoped to generate business interest through an AfCFTA Business Forum in July 2020 as well as through the work of a Business Council expected to be in place in 2020 as an umbrella organization for the African private sector.
He also hoped to organize a number of AU-led trade missions to the United States and to expand outreach to American diaspora groups. He believed strongly that any third-party free trade agreements in Africa need to align with the AfCFTA.