by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE African Continental Free Trade Area
Agreement (AfCFTA) can help leapfrog and position the continent in a
global competitive advantage after the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In full swing, AfCFTA will represent one of the greatest trading areas
since the beginning of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) 25 years ago.
These are the sentiments of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce Chief
Innovation Officer, Phumza Dyani, as the world contends with the
“Africa for a very long time has been a consumer of foreign products and
has been the biggest importers of foreign goods,” she noted.
“…but this is the time for Africa to consolidate efforts and trade
amongst each other. A noble idea indeed and logical. This is the beauty
of what the AfCFTA presents.”
The executive corroborated the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (UNECA), which states that AfCFTA aims to reshape the continent’s
social, investment and trade arena in a fundamental manner.
It lays the foundation for the African Customs Union, a cornerstone of
the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. The goal is the elimination of
tariffs and other barriers to free trade, resulting in free movement of
goods, services, investment and people.
“We are one Africa and therefore we should be one market and this can be
a lucrative market compared to each country’s battle for leftovers
approach,” Dyani said.
However, she highlighted the continent first needed ground-breaking and
innovative ideas and solutions that could address socio-economic
challenges Africa was likely to face as a result of COVID-19 and beyond.
Dyani believes ongoing digitalisation is paving the way for a new
African economy, with e-commerce platforms and internet penetration
expediting transactions, reducing costs and leading to a new generation
of transnational digital consumers.
African governments, she added, need to capitalise on the opportunities
associated with digitalisation, by bolstering regulatory environments
and supporting the development of digital ecosystems.
“We need to review how we are structured as a continent,” Dyani said.
“Gone are the days of merely being a minerals supplier to the rest of
Africa also needs to focus on industrialisation in order to provide for
goods and services to be traded amongst countries.
Investment in infrastructure and telecommunications will be crucial to
the implementation of AfCTA, Dyani added.
The African Trade Report 2019 notes that the continent’s contribution to
global trade remains marginal at 2,6 percent.
While intra-African trade rose to 18 percent in 2019 from 5 percent in
1980, it remains low compared to intra-regional trade in Europe and
AfCFTA, scheduled to launch sometime early 2021, once completed, will
have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion
and 1,27 billion people.
– CAJ News