Is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement the game changer for the continent?

One of the major reasons why a very resourceful continent like Africa lacks a voice and influence at the international front is simply because of lack of unity. For many years now, colonial borders have limited and are still limiting trade among Africans, making it difficult for free flow of goods and services among people of the same origin. A typical example is the closure of borders by the Nigerian government, preventing the smooth movement of goods and services to and fro some of its neighboring countries such as Niger, Benin and Cameroon. Many other countries equally have strict practices that restrict other African countries from having access to their respective countries, in terms of trade.

In effect, the continent is scattered all around with vulnerable individual African countries facing these world powers with their tiny economies, which mostly results in economic bullying and as well reduces the trade relationship between the parties to aid and biases instead of proper negotiation.

This is the main reason why we need to expedite processes on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, with a general focus on pulling down every trade barrier on the continent. If everything goes according to plan, the agreement will facilitate business transactions among a united population of about 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion, making it the world’s largest free trade area in terms of participating countries. This will undoubtedly establish a continental bargaining power with which to shift attention from begging for favors to getting a global recognition and respect with which to create value for local industries and our resources at large.

Signed in Kigali-Rwanda on March 21st, 2018 by 54 out of the 55 membership of the African Union and ratified by 22 member states, this agreement is purported to serve the following objectives:

1. Create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspersons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

2. Expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general.

3. Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.

4. Enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

If well implemented, this agreement will boost the participation of the continent in the global market. Aside economic integration and global recognition, the agreement and its related trade activities will help deal with the age long division perpetuated by colonialists, by pulling down physical boundaries, dealing with all forms of hostilities towards local businesses and also reunite the people of Africa for the collective good.