Before the ink can even dry on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty, Kenya is already working to turn the trade pact into a fully functionable treaty and become the first African country to do so.
Kenya is on course to offer legal backing to the free-trade treaty after a bill endorsing the agreement for trading bloc was presented to Parliament for approval.
The National Assembly is expected to debate on the bill for ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) after it was tabled in the House by Industrialisation secretary Adan Mohamed.
“Parliament is requested to take note of the content of this memorandum, take note of the Cabinet approval for signing, ratification and engagement under phase II and ratify the framework establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area in good time to facilitate entry into force of the AfCFTA and pave the way for Kenya to exploit opportunities arising from the AfCFTA,” said Mr Mohamed in a memorandum to Parliament.
The pact signed last month in Rwanda by 44 African nations is expected to establish a single market with duty-free access among traders in the continent and spur industrialisation, infrastructure development and economic diversification across Africa that is home to more than 1.2 billion people.
It is easy to see Kenya's enthusiasm in making the treaty come alive, the country is among the biggest African intra-trade contributors and the continent continues to provide Kenya with a ready market.
In 2017, the East African Community that brings together Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi accounted for 51.9 per cent of Kenya's intra-Africa trade.
In approving the treaty last week the Cabinet asked the private sector to prepare to extend their foothold into all the 54 African nations “once Kenya becomes among the first nations to ratify the AfCFTA”.
However, Africa’s biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, are yet to append their signatures to form a $3 trillion (Sh302 trillion) continental free-trade zone.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who attended the signing up of the treaty described as “criminal” the rejection of a free trade agreement for African countries, by President Muhammadu Buhari and nearly a dozen other African heads of state.
Once fully implemented, the treaty is expected to enable residents of all member countries to enjoy the convenience of a single passport and currency.