Completion of the African free trade zone will still take time

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Completion of the African free trade zone will still take time
Completion of the African free trade zone will still take time

Africa-Press – Cape verde. The secretary-general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, argued in Nassau that the complete implementation of intra-African trade will take time, despite the progress made.

“We have done something that was a vision and is now becoming a reality. What we are doing is establishing an integrated market, which has been a long-standing vision of African leaders,” said Wamkele Mene, speaking at the Annual Meetings of the African Export and Import Bank (AAM2024) and the 3rd Afro-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2024).

In his intervention, Mene highlighted the significant progress already achieved but warned of the importance of the political will of African leaders.

“We are on the right track in terms of building the legal basis that positions the continent to be a common market. The second important aspect is political will and commitment,” he stated.

Launched in 2018 and approved a year later, the free trade agreement in Africa came into force at the beginning of 2021 and covers a market with more than 1.3 billion consumers.

The African Union estimates that its implementation without barriers could increase trade growth by at least 53% and potentially double intra-African trade, lifting 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty and increasing the incomes of almost 68 million others..

According to the World Bank, the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could grow by 450 billion dollars (around 420 billion euros) by 2035.

The treaty, which eliminates customs duties on 97% of goods traded between African countries, liberalizes trade in services and improves regulatory and trade infrastructure.

Currently, intra-African exports represent about 16% of African countries’ foreign trade, compared to 55% for Asia, 49% for North America and 63% for the European Union (EU).

Despite this, 47 of the 54 members of the African Union ratified the agreement, committing to eliminate trade barriers and strengthen economic integration.

Seven countries – Benin, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – have not yet ratified it and Eritrea continues to not agree to the creation of the AfCFTA.

“In less than five years, we’ve managed to reach consensus on long-standing macroeconomic policies and complexities, industrial economic policies and complexities, and to me that says a lot about the political will of our heads of state. I’m not worried about the fact that there are some countries that have not yet ratified”, said Mene, who expressed confidence that these countries will move forward with ratification.

The AfCFTA aims to simplify trade by standardizing rules of origin for around 92% of products traded in Africa, but difficulties persist in sectors such as textiles, clothing and the automotive industry.

The AfCFTA secretary general explained that these are the two most complex sectors from the point of view of industrial development.

More than three thousand delegates, including heads of state and government from Africa and the Caribbean, began the Afreximbank Annual Meetings and the 3rd Afro-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum in Nassau on Wednesday.

The two events, which end on Friday, take place under the theme “Owners of Our Destiny: Economic Prosperity on the Global Africa Platform” and aim to define solutions to the challenges affecting the economies of Africa and the Caribbean.

The organization announced that it intends to conclude more than 25 investment agreements in what will be a first step towards the creation of an Afro-Caribbean Free Trade Agreement.

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