Kenya is among seven countries selected to pilot the Continental Free Trade Area which aims to unlock the flow of goods and services in Africa.

The country will join Tanzania, Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt, Mauritius and Ghana in a trial phase to start trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which will see these states do business without being subject to tariff barriers.

“The initiative aims to demonstrate that the AfCFTA is working and to send a political message to countries that have not yet submitted their provisional schedules of tariff concessions in accordance with the agreed terms,” the AfCFTA Council of Ministers said.

The trial phase will see Kenya access markets at preferential rates in its trade with countries belonging to a different economic bloc. For example, Kenya is a member of the East African Community while Ghana belongs to the West African Economic Community, Tunisia being a member of the Maghreb.

AfCFTA initiative

Kenya will market selected products covering agro-industry, manufacturing and building materials and automobiles. These goods will include textiles, milk, cheeses and horticultural products.

The countries selected to participate in the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative were announced during the 9th Meeting of the AfCFTA Council of Ministers held in Ghana. The AfCFTA, the largest free trade area in the world, covers 54 African countries, 43 of which have already ratified the agreement, with 39 officially recognized state parties, including Rwanda.

Trade under the AfCFTA officially commenced on January 1, 2021, but could not be completed as issues regarding rules of origin remained unresolved, making it difficult to identify which products could benefit from the preferential tariff treatment under the agreement.

So far, countries have adopted a tariff offer from the AfCFTA that allows them to trade certain goods outside their economic bloc. Each trading bloc has its own common external tariff, which it applies to goods coming from outside a given region. For example, EAC charges up to 50% duty on goods shipped from other regions.