The Kenyan cabinet has approved the Africa Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) treaty for ratification.
The Bill for ratifying the treaty, which was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, by 44 African nations, will be presented to Parliament within the next few days following its approval by Cabinet in its first sitting.
The treaty will come into effect after it is ratified by 22 countries and Kenya will be one of the first countries that will adopt the agreement.
The Cabinet which was chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta and attended by Deputy President William Ruto, urged the private sector to take full advantage of the business opportunities presented by the AfCFTA deal to extend Kenya’s foothold into all the 54 African nations.
“It is a great opportunity to export goods and services to the region and the continent,” the Cabinet said.
The AfCFTA will establish a single liberalized market that will spur industrialization, infrastructural development, economic diversification and trade across the continent that is home to more than 1.2 billion people.
The pact also seeks to promote industrial development through diversification, regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security. When fully implemented, the treaty is expected to enable residents of all member countries to enjoy the convenience of a single passport and currency.
The trade deal also binds all State parties to eight objectives including the progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods. The signatory State parties are also expected to progressively liberalize trade in services.
Under the agreement, African countries will establish a mechanism for the settlement of disputes concerning their rights and obligations.
The Cabinet also approved for ratification the tripartite free trade agreement bringing together the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).
Cabinet also approved a supplementary budget that continues with austerity measures to control expenditure. The proposed revision to the financial year 2017/2018 will regularise approved expenditures and ensure micro-economic stability. Further borrowing will be contained and a fiscal deficit of 7.2 percent of GDP will be maintained.
The Cabinet said it was necessary to continue to implement austerity measures in order to ensure Kenya continues to operate within its means.
The Cabinet said more focus will be placed on priority areas especially the Big Four plan for Kenya’s growth. Also approved by Cabinet was the County Retirement benefits Bill which will establish an umbrella pensions scheme for county employees.
The proposed Bill which will give legal backing to the the defined contribution scheme was also approved for forwarding to Parliament.
Cabinet also discussed the recently released Kenya Integrated Budget Household Survey and agreed to discuss the results in order to determine where special interventions are required.
The survey is undertaken to provide parameters for a wide range of national and county-specific indicators necessary for assessment of the living standards of the population. It also provides updated parameters for the sharing of national resources as provided in the Constitution.