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Weak African customs regimes will ‘impede’ implementation of continental free trade agreement

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  • The capacity of some customs authorities in Africa is “very, very low,” said Wamkele Mene, secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
  • He said this would be an obstacle and “a very, very big challenge” for the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement
  • Mene says Africa needs to accelerate industrial development in order to rely less on global supply chains

Many African countries do not have the capacity to implement customs agreements and this can be a major obstacle to implementing the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, said its Secretary General Wamkele Mene.

“Overall, the capacity of customs authorities is very, very low,” he told a webinar hosted by the ANC Progressive Business Forum on Thursday.

Mene said he went to a small crossing on the border between Nigeria and Niger a week ago, “and it was very clear to me that there are countries on the continent that just do not have the capacity to implement this agreement, and that is be an obstacle, and it will be a very, very big challenge. “

He said: “They have the political will, the legal commitment is there, but the capacity is what we need to improve.”

This was not true for all countries. “Some countries and some regions have very strong customs procedures,” he said.

“They have the capacity to enforce the customs rules we have agreed upon.”

Mene said the blockade related to the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed the implementation of the AfCFTA from last year until earlier this year, but it came with many lessons.

“We have learned that, because of this disruption in global supply chains, Africa needs to accelerate industrial development in order to rely less on global supply chains and more on regional supply chains,” he said. “Covid-19 was a hurdle but it also helped focus our minds on what we need to do to accelerate our industrial development as a continent.”

He said the distribution of vaccines around the world also shows that Africa needed to develop its overall drug industry “in order for the generic drug industry to serve the public health needs of Africa as well as the industrialization of Africa.” “.

He said it was good news that South Africa would soon produce vaccines.

“We have to scale it across the continent,” he said.

“This means that we need to review the African property rights regime and ask ourselves what is the extent to which our intellectual property regime contributes to public health in Africa and contributes to industrialization in Africa. “This is a really big lesson we should learn from Covid-19.”

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