Mr Alan Kyerematen, the Minister of Trade and Industry, has said intra-African trade in animal commodities could be a major source of job and wealth creation and a catalyst for improving rural economies and alleviating poverty.
He said deliberate steps are needed to reinforce public and private investment in value chains and regulatory enforcement and improve compliance with animal and food safety standards to achieve such objectives.
He said enhanced competitiveness and promoting inclusive participation of women and youth in animal resource value chain was also crucial.
The Minister said this at the opening ceremony of the forum on accelerating Intra-African Trade and Boosting Africa's Trading Position in the Global Animal Commodities Market (AfCFTA) on Wednesday.
He said the AfCFTA has potential benefits including providing expanded and secure markets for goods and services and the reduction and progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
Mr Kyerematen said the critical phase of AfCFTA journey would be to identify key challenges and opportunities and potential intervention areas for support.
He said that over the years, there has been wide spread recognition that multiple and overlapping regimes present major barriers to trade in any common market system, adding "these barriers have been widely observed also on the African landscape with the existence of mostly overlapped, trading regimes".
He commended the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) for taking the leadership role to ensure that AU member states become fully aware of the opportunities available within the AfCFTA and the elements vital for its operationalisation.
Mr Hassan Hussein, the Acting Director Department of Trade and Industry African Union Commission, in a speech read on his behalf, said the main objective of the AfCFTA Business Forum was to bring together African business leaders, Business Member Organisations (BMOs) and African policy makers to discuss and reflect on potential strategies for successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
He said this would lead to the realisation of Africa's aspirations as enunciated in Agenda 2063: "the Africa we want".
He expressed the hope that African businesses would be encouraged to transform themselves from operating in national fragmented markets that existed before the launch of the AfCFTA market, to operating in a much larger and integrated market of 1.27 billion people.
He said the forum has been designed to secure the commitment of businesses to undertake large scale and long-term investments in the AfCFTA, adding that business to business transactions would be signed during the various business forums.
Mr Hassan said the Draft African Union Commodity strategy and its Action Plan was validated by member states and other relevant organisations and that, it is now undergoing various review processes at the AU Policy Organ and the document would likely be adopted by February 2020 AU Assembly as one of the 14 flagships of Agenda 2063.
He said the strategy would assist Member States in formulating policies that ensure trade in agricultural commodities under the AfCFTA.
He said it would ensure food security and food safety in cross border trade among African countries.
He said the number of signatories to the AfCFTA have increased from the 44 to 54 member states and this signals the start of a completely new chapter in Africa's development history.