The Chairperson of Africa Private Sector Summit (APSS), J. Wendell Addy, has indicated that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) might fail to achieve its intended purpose of economic integration and ease of trade on the continent if the existing disparities between regional economic blocs are not addressed.
He said that the different principles of the regional trading blocs in Africa with some still holding onto one or two unfavorable protocols to the AfCFTA, must be visited and vigorously ironed out to smoothen the Africa economic transformation agenda.
Over the past decades, Africa has had several regional economic blocs, namely, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).
Other regional trading blocs are the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). Four African states are also members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). They are Angola, Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria.
This economic communities/ bloc, the chairperson emphasized, have various protocol challenges that are inhibiting trade, and if not dealt with, they can be transferred to the AfCFTA agreement which can be a major setback.
Although African political leaders have established trading blocs for regional integration purposes, they are reluctant to empower them and implement trade agreements for fear of losing sovereignty. As a result, the blocs remain weak and are restricted to the execution of administrative tasks.
He stated that with the implementation of a common currency for ECOWAS (The Eco), for instance, still being a challenge because of the individual state’s inability to meet certain criteria, a situation that is often associated to lackadaisical approach of some member states, bringing similar attitude to the AfCFTA process would not be healthy.
He emphasized that it is very important that key stakeholders understand Africa, know where it stands now, be conscious of where it is heading to in the near future, and exactly how to get it to that destination.
“ People must be decisive, our politics must be decisive in approving either regional currency or one continent currency.
The idea of a common currency implementation has been very slow but now that we have AfCFTA and series of protocols on the book, we need to hasten that process for the true realization of AfCFTA,” he said.
The APSS is a platform created for key players in the private sector of African countries, stakeholders, Africa Business Council, and people from industries across the continent to gather together and deliberate on best ways to integrate the youth from the different countries to work together.
It holds a key objective of building synergy and creating the necessary network suitable for the transformation of the business environment of Africa for the youth to thrive.
Touching on youth development matters, he said: “This continent is young, rich and full of potential. When those that hold the potential are given trust and the opportunities to utilize them, then, it leads to innovation, something we are always asking for and when this happens naturally, there will be a positive move to intended destination.
The youth when given the opportunity will achieve agenda 2063 in just 20 years. The strength of the continent lies in collaboration between those who are there now and those who are behind, especially the youth.”