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African countries are determined to start trading in line with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Jan. 1 next year, said a senior official of the African Union Commission (AUC) on Wednesday.

Chief technical adviser and head of the AfCFTA negotiation support unit Prudence Sebahizi made the remarks while addressing the 7th Africa Think Tank Summit.

“We have put in place a trade observatory to give information to the private sector. We have also put in place a mobile AfCFTA tool to assist the private sector to access information without hassles. We are negotiating and preparing so that on Jan. 1 we should start trading,” he said.

Sebahizi said they have given African countries a checklist to examine their state of readiness to implement the AfCFTA. Countries were advised to harmonize legislation and policies, come up with a list of goods they will trade with, put in place a national strategy and mobilize the private sector to be ready to start trading.

Gibson Chigumira, executive director of Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit, said they have many initiatives in place to implement the continental trade pact.

“We are investing in human and institutional capacity to improve competitiveness. We are capacitating a drive towards ecommerce and eGovernment and ensuring these platforms are secure. We’re working on a bill on cyber security for the protection of the data and payment systems,” he said.

Chigumira said they are working on improving investment which would result in scaling up of the manufacturing base and increase production.

Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director of the Trade Law Centre (Tralac) in South Africa said there is so much energy in AfCFTA with increase in countries signing and ratifying the protocol.

She stated that African countries have to diversify the productive capacity, improve payment systems and infrastructure to facilitate the implementation of the protocol.

The main objective of the summit is to provide a platform for African think tanks and other key stakeholders to engage in a high-level deliberation on the most effective ways of addressing the capacity challenges facing the implementation of the AfCFTA to accelerate its implementation and enhance country readiness in implementing and benefiting from the Agreement, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enditem

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