Thursday, December 31st,2020 and January 1st, 2021 respectively were two important days that recorded indelible occurrences in world history; whilst one saw the fresh beginning of an economic integration, the other saw the breakaway of a member from another economic bloc.
The African Union has successfully launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was established to unite all the states on the continent to create what is considered the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
However, Europe on the other hand experienced the opposite on Thursday; the contentious BREXIT has been sealed making the United Kingdom (UK) breakaway officially from the European Union economic bloc. It was a bitter exit but there is little the EU could do because the people voted for it.
In effect, there will be immigration changes in terms of paper works that will affect movement of goods, services and persons between the UK and the rest of the European countries. According to William Bain from the British Retail Consortium, “this is the biggest imposition of red tape that businesses have had to deal with in 50 years.”
Africa’s new trade agreement will however remove red tapes, reduce tariffs drastically on goods and services that will trade within the new trade area. Moreover, the UK is by this new arrangement expected to conduct its own negotiations independent of the EU which reduces its bargaining power compared to when they were with the EU bloc.
The UK would now need a new trading bloc to build some collective power and the commonwealth is the closest alternative for them. The commonwealth is however a colonial legacy body and nineteen members of the African Union are part of it. African commonwealth countries trade with the UK by virtue of common laws and common official language. In 2018, the common secretary states that, ” The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement gives us the perfect platform to facilitate trade across the commonwealth.”
The newly launched African Continental Free Trade area will build a united front and a strong bargaining power by way of resolving individual national differences and bringing all these countries together to help equip the continent with a collective capacity to negotiate good deals in the global market.
Should Africa be complacent with the new deal especially knowing the current state of the EU? No. This is the time to keep the momentum and pool together, every necessary measure to ensure that, the AFCFTA is successfully implemented to consolidate the much desired African Unity.