Though the agreement is yet to be ratified, a series of actions are already being taken by Both Public and Private Sectors in order to leave up to expectations when it will go operational.
The African continental free trade area agreement (AFCFTA) reached on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda may be slow in taking off, one year after but its merits are still palpable. The agreement has so far been signed by 49 countries out of the 55 that make up the African Union.
However, only 17 states have gone beyond mere signature by ratifying the agreement. If five more nations’ reality to meet the African continental free trade area will be a reality. The dream of the African Union (AU) of not only launching a single market for goods and services in Africa but also instituting the largest free trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization 70 years ago will come to fruition. The AU brokered the agreement last year after negotiations that started in 2012. The AFCFTA requires members to remove 90 per cent tariffs of goods and services across the continent. As it stands therefore, it is a wide market of some 1.2 Billion people should all the 55 member States of the AU adhere. AU’s ambition is to foster Africa’s integration as inscribed in its agenda 2020-2063.
With the multifaceted benefits such as creating one big African market and curbing unemployment, the objective of the African Union is to boost intra-African trade by more than 52 per cent. Amid this background therefore, Cameroon which featured among the first 44 Countries to sign the agreement is gearing up for ratification. Prime Minister, Head of Government, Dion Ngute during the recent Cameroon Business Forum said the government is considering the ratification. In the meantime, multiple efforts are taking place on the background to better prepare the country to embrace the New Trade trend when it goes operational. The initiatives are both ways; private and public with the sole objective of putting Cameroonian Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) on internationally accepted Standard.
To begin with, the Ministry of Small and Medium Size Enterprises, handicraft and Social Economy alongside the SMEs promotion agency (APME) are currently working with the Japan international cooperation agency (JICA) to train some 75 Cameroonian enterprises in the second phase of the KAIZEN project. APME has also gone into partnership deals with the national Standard and Quality Agency (ANOR) and mobile telephony operator, MTN Cameroon to help in upgrading the competiveness of Cameroonian SMEs.
As far as the private initiative is concern, the country, GICAM, is championing the course. The creation of Small and medium Size Enterprises Development centre (CDPME) as a specialized organ of GICAM was indded laudable. Launched last year,, the centre’s primary objective is to accompany local SMEs and promote entrepreneurship. The centre assist SMEs in reinforcing their competitiveness, financial mobilization and development of business opportunities. All of these, including the organization of regular public-private dialogue such the Cameroon Business Forum, are intended to up Cameroon’s game0