Why Africa needs the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)

Mohamed Okash

African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a historical and ground-breaking decision by AU’s head of States and Governments in their 18th ordinary assembly session held in Addis Ababa in January 2012. The CFTA is aimed to create a single African market, currency union, and bring together the fifty-five countries to boost the intra trade and the movement of the people and goods and services. The continent has experienced a large success of regional integrations led by Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) including the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and, the Southern African Development Community (SADC); therefore, the AU is committed to expand, harmonise and accelerate the integration from regional to continental level.

There are numerous expectations from CFTA and in order to meet them successful negotiations and the implantation of the Action Plan on Boosting intra- African trade (BIAT) is crucial and inevitable. Africa has experienced poor trade facilities, infrastructure gaps, lack of productive capacities, absence market integration, and restriction of movements; therefore, CFTA is seen a huge tremendous opportunity to scale up Africa’s production, value change of goods and ease trade barriers.

Several Phases of negotiations took place about CFTA from February 2016 until March 2018 in Kigali. The first phases of negotiations were based on all technical matters while the late phases focused on policy and draft conclusions. The agreement was signed by 44 of the 55 AU countries during the 10th extraordinary summit of the assembly of the African Union on 21 March in Kigali alongside with Kigali Declaration and protocol of Movement. These countries include Somali, Kenya, and Uganda. However, only 18 countries ratified the agreement up to date; these are Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Niger, Chad, Guinea, eSwatini,, South Africa, Mauritania, Djibouti, Mali, Togo, Senegal, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and the Republic of Congo. Speaking at the event, President Kagame, a champion of AU reforms, mentioned: “Today’s milestone is an indication of how much is possible when we work together.”  The commitment of AU member of states is extremely undeniable for successful implementation CFTA; therefore, 22 countries are needed to ratify the pact for its implementation.

Transforming African is one of the top priorities of AU in order to meet the needs of 1.2 billion people in the continent and boost the continent’s GDP which approximately is $3.4 trillion. The continent is experiencing a period of transition and transformation with a number of initiatives including the AfCFTA, the flagship socio-economic transformational plan of Agenda 2063, African Union’s reforms on Institutional Framework and self-financing and others. The African of 21st century is committed to becoming a peaceful, prosperous, integrated continent and key player in Global Arena.

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