In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic and what is happening across the world and the continent, it is no longer feasible to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on July, 1 as planned.
With the closure of most land and sea borders, as well as airports, it would be difficult for people and goods to move freely within the context of the agreement, CUTS Ghana has observed. The research and public policy think-tank believes the timeline must be deferred.
The West Africa Regional Director of CUTS International, Appiah Kusi Adomako, notes that “projected revenue for African governments has been hard hit, and the majority of businesses are not in good shape to take advantage of the agreement”.
Mr. Adomako believes postponing the planned date for at least six months would allow countries and businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. He posits that if we decide to stick to the July 1st date, some countries could use the virus outbreak as a pretext to close their national borders to goods and services, since goods and services cannot move without people.
That is a consideration which cannot be overlooked, since the outbreak of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on many African economies as they are almost comatose with the closure of borders and heavy restrictions.
Well, Mr. Adomako cannot be faulted in asking for a re-scheduling of the implementation date for AfCFTA since it would also permit the Secretariat, which is headquartered in Accra, to be fully set up in terms of personnel and staff.
So, both ways, it works out well for the continent to focus on eradicating the virus for now and then proceeding to find out the best available time for starting full-scale implementation of AfCFTA.
However, we are of the firm conviction that the regional body, the AU, has taken cognisance of the devastation wrought by COVID-19 and will communicate its position on the programme date for implementation of the AfCFTA.
July is but months away, and it is very appropriate to sound the alarm bells now when COVID-19 is peaking on the continent and African leaders are pre-occupied with its containment. We believe the AU will soon speak to the matter.