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Green light for Africa through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement

By Namatirai Ticharwa

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is one of the leading schemes of the ten year implementation plan under the African Union, Agenda 2063 – “ The Africa We Want”. African countries preached the integration efforts during the decolonisation period and this dream has been realized through the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA as a multilateral cooperative platform for African trade integration aims at creating a single market, deepening economic integration through multiple rounds of negotiations. The Africa’s most ambitious integration project and it is the largest in the world interns off membership of countries participating since the World Trade Organization, (WTO).

There had been several treaties before which aimed to promote free trade in Africa, for example the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980 which sought to minimize reliance upon e West by promoting intra- Africa trade. The creation of regional blocs such as the Southern Africa Development Coordination conference and the Abuja treaty of 1991 which creates the African Economic Community which promoted the development of free trade areas, custom unions, African central bank.

According to the AU Economic Commission and in particular the Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary Ms Vera Songwe (2019) in a presentation ‘ East Africa will benefit from Free Trade Agreement (welfare gains) to the tune of USD 1.8 billion and at least two million jobs.

Africa is expected to develop massive productive capacity and new investments. Accordingly, industrialisation on the content will take place with the continent expecting an increase in marginal share in global exports which currently is estimated at 3% and this will boost Intra-Africa trade  which is  very weak  chain as compared to Asia’s which is around 80%. 

Further, the AFCFTA can benefit Africa in many respects which include; the registration of trademarks, registration of African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), unification of IPR issues which were previously fragmented. The above can allow compliance which international patent registration and agreements such as TRIPs and other Instruments of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).  Further, AfCFTA, will cover members of the AU with about 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than $3.4 trillion.

More so, the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) suggested that the AfCFTA, can boost intra-African trade by around 52.3% as a result of import duties elimination from a margin around 13%.The Free Trade Area is projected to pave way for the establishment of a universal Customs Union which will expand the continental trade through harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation through RECs instruments.

According to the UN (Report for women Entrepreneurs in the context of AfCFTA), the regional integration efforts will create opportunities for women entrepreneurs i.e. women in the formal trade areas and those in engagements such as Cross Border informal trade by growing markets. Projections done by International Futures (IFs, 2020) modelling platforms shows that Africa accounts for nearly 60% of Africans are living in poverty.

According to the World Bank (2020) the trade pact will boost Africa’s income by $450 billion which will boost economic growth, reduce poverty and broaden economic inclusion. In the Covid 19 pandemic, Africa is estimated to have made losses causing major disruptions to trade and in this case trade liberalisation through Free Trade can present an opportunity for an uninterrupted flow of capital and labour fostering recovery and growth.

Therfore worth noting is that the AfCFTA offers African countries with an opportunity to exploit growing global fissures, and for this to be efficacy there is need for various African States to provide sufficient politics will and momentum against mounting odds such as the covid 19.  Especially during this coronavirus there’s is need to take this AfCFTA seriously with both hands since it is one of the flagship projects which can sustain and aid the continents recovery from covid 19

  • Namatirai Ticharwa is a Masters of Science in International Trade & Diplomacy student at the University of Zimbabwe.
  • Namatirai can be contacted on rutendo640@gmail.com or +263776286356

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