“African countries must show full commitment to ensure the success of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This is the only way by which countries can harness the full outcome of the free trade agreement. There is more to the AfCFTA than signing and rectification,” said Appiah Kusi Adomako, the Centre Coordinator for CUTS International West Africa.
Mr. Appiah Kusi Adomako was speaking in Niamey, Niger, on the sidelines of the African Union Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the theme ‘Bringing AfCFTA to the African People’.
The African Union Commission, in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, organised the first-ever Civil Society Forum 2019 under the theme ‘Enhancing Civil Society Engagement in the AfCFTA to Broaden Inclusiveness’, in Niamey, Niger. The Civil Society Forum 2019’s purpose was, among others, to enhance stakeholder engagement on implementation of the AfCFTA and increase participation opportunities for civil society stakeholders in the AfCFTA’s work programme. The Forum brought together participants from African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), CSO umbrella-organizations on trade, and members of the AU ECOSOC, among others.
Mr. Appiah Adomako said the majority of people feel removed and disconnected from the continent when it comes to consumption, since nations do not trade among themselves. Our inability to trade among ourselves has been occasioned by inefficient trade infrastructure and logistics, non-tariff barriers to trade as well as reduced manufacturing capabilities.
Mr. Adomako said: “With the signing of the AfCFTA and its ratification, African countries must take advantage of the collective GDP of US$2.5trillion, making it the 8th-largest economy in the world with a 1.2 billion market, and to lift people out of poverty. This should encourage business people to take advantage of AfCFTA and make the investments necessary to sustain economic growth and create employment”.
“While the AfCFTA’s text has good intention, the agreement’s success requires governments to show full commitment and abide by it. In the short term, there there will be losers – but the short-term pain is required to achieve a long-term gain,” he said.
Mr. Adomako suggested: “Like the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation which requires the establishment of National Trade Facilitation Committee at the national level, it would be helpful for countries to set up National AfCFTA Councils; and their membership should be extended to CSOS, government agencies, private sector, academia and others”.
The AUC’s Deputy Chairperson, Mr. Kwesi Quartey, commended the Department of Trade and Industry for the initiative and noted that, if successfully implemented, “the AfCFTA could generate a combined consumer and business spending of US$6.7trillion by 2030; accelerate industrial development; expand economic diversification; and facilitate quality job creation for Africa’s women and youth”.
Speaking on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy, Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo said the AfCFTA could boost intra-African trade from its current level of 16% to 52% by 2022, according to ECA studies. Ms. Ruzvidzo noted, however, that visa and other immigration restrictions have constrained mobility within Africa, and “increased the vulnerability of migrant and refugee populations on the continent”.
In the Keynote presentation given on behalf of the Commissioner for Trade & Industry, Ag. Director of Trade & Industry, Mr. Hassan Hussein, highlighted the fact that the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA (which entered into force on 30th May 2019) will soon have 54 signatories out of the 55 AU member-states, and currently has 25 ratifications. He went on to outline specific challenges and opportunities posed by the AfCFTA, which will create more trade than it diverts and generate significant welfare gains for the majority of State Parties.
Other speakers included Isaac Hubert Arthur, the Executive Director of the African Centre for International Trade and Development (ACINTaD), and Sylvester Bagooro, Programmes Officer for the Third World Network Africa.