The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be an enabler of the continent’s economic diversification from dependence on the export of raw materials to increased industrialisation and greater value addition, according to Stephen Karingi of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Mr Karingi, Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division at the Commission, spoke at an Africa Day webinar organised by NOVAFRICA. The event featured discussions on two SDGs concerning ending poverty as well as providing decent work and economic growth.
He said the AfCFTA “promises to create a continental market of significant scale and to unlock private investment that can be channelled into more productive economic sectors.”
The AfCFTA agreement entered into force on 30th May 2019, after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries – the minimum number required by the treaty. The number has since grown to 37 nations out of the 54 that have signed the agreement creating the trading bloc.
COVID-19 has been tough on Africa, threatening to erase much of Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals progress to date, derail the AfCFTA and other development plans, compelling fresh thinking and innovative solutions on the continent, said Mr Karingi.
While COVID-19 could push 40 million Africans into extreme poverty and 100 million people into food insecurity, the ECA Director said it was pertinent that vulnerable citizens had access to essential services such as health and education as they were likely to suffer the most from the pandemic.
“After the pandemic, a green recovery is not just a good thing on its own – it is also good for business,” Mr Karingi said, adding that a more resilient Africa could then be a strong foundation for more inclusive, greener, and more digital economies.
On 1st January this year, the world’s largest free trade area with more than 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product valued at $2.5 trillion, officially commenced trading. It has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction on the continent.
Learn More: UNECA