Africa’s journey to market integration has begun in earnest with the commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1st January, Secretary General Wamkele Mene has said.
Speaking during a virtual press conference, Mr Mene dismissed talks that the AfCFTA arrangement was being rushed, saying there’s no trade agreement where all members were ready at the same time.
Countries like Ghana and South Africa were in fact prepared with the required customs infrastructure to ensure commercially meaningful trading started, he said, adding that Ghana had, on 4th January, already officially recognised the first consignment of goods to be exported under the AfCFTA, an event other countries would be replicating soon to mark the milestone.
“The most important point that I want to emphasize is that Africa is now trading under new rules, new preferences, because we want to build a single integrated market on the African continent. It may take some time before each of us sees the direct benefit. We are not going to be deterred by our critics who say they don’t see evidence that trading has actually started,” Mr Mene argued.
According to him, market integration is not an event but a process that takes time, pointing out that it took the European Union almost 60 years to achieve its current depth of integration.
“I have never heard of a trade agreement where all countries were ready on Day One; I don’t know it. Africa’s market integration would take some time but you have to start somewhere,” he said.
The AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. It also has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.
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