Although trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime commenced January 2021, lingering processes continue to frustrate intra-African trade.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts show that AfCFTA could boost intra-African trade by about 33 percent and cut the continent’s trade deficit by 51 percent; however, available data as at January this year indicate that intra-Africa trade stands low at just 14.4 percent of total African exports.
To this end, Head of Public Diplomacy at South Africa, Clayson Monyela, is urging that individual countries, regional bodies and even the African Union make deliberate policy decisions that can change the narrative.
He said this in an interview with the B&FT in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the 2023 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit. He spoke about how Africa can make accelerated growth and sustainable development a reality, which is one of the key areas the summit is spearheading. The summit also seeks to encourage BRICS members to seize opportunities in the AfCFTA zone.
Mr. Monyela noted that making strides as a continent “starts with the understanding that currently, intra-African trade is extremely low and that it is not where it should be. And there has to be a deliberate policy decision by individual African countries, regional bodies and broadly, the Africa Union.
“And I think the African Union has moved in that direction if you consider the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it is meant to encourage intra-African trade. So, countries that have not ratified the AfCFTA should do that because it is an instrument that will radically change the economies of individual countries and broadly the continent.
“We are not a small continent, so if we unite and trade among ourselves, we will become a force that other regions of the world cannot ignore. But we have to be deliberate in our policy decisions and be intentional about how we encourage trade among ourselves to allow for easier trading,” he explained.
He acknowledged the encouraging steps of individual countries to harness the potential of the trade area, but added that more needs to be done.
Mr. Monyela is confident that if the office of the Secretary-General of AfCFTA embarks on a road tour to all countries, particularly those who have not made any attempt, it could convince them to come on board.
He further charged the continent to rise and take advantage of its numerous potentials for mutually accelerated growth and sustainable development.
More importantly, he said Africa’s youthful population, which is over 60 percent, is an invaluable asset that needs to be nurtured to foster innovative growth.
“The idea that Africa is rising is not dead, I think we have lost some momentum but “the potential of this continent is huge.
“Africa is a youthful continent with over 60 percent of the population being young people, and they are innovative and skilled. What is happening in other regions can happen here. We are a powerful continent that needs to rise and realise its potential and take advantage of it, while utilising our youthful population to become a powerful force to reckoned with.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to increase intra-African trade and investment, grow local businesses, accelerate industrialisation, and generate employment for the continent’s burgeoning youth population.