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AfCFTA’s success hinged on poverty reduction, economic development

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Buhari signs, on behalf of Nigeria, the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (#AfCFTA), at the opening of the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Govt, in Niamey, Niger Republic, July 7, 2019. Photo/Twitter/Asorock

Though the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aspires towards deepening the integration of the African continent beyond merely a free trade area, latest trade report has argued for the need to make competition, industrial policies and property rights work well.

According to the ninth edition of the flagship Assessing Regional Integration in Africa report (ARIA IX), AfCFTA’s success will be measured largely by its ability to actually change lives, reduce poverty and contribute to economic development in Africa.

ARIA IX was jointly published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Union, African Development Bank and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The report argued that the trade deal is a litmus test of African countries’ commitment to economic integration.

The report noted that traditional investment treaties predominate on the continent, with major repercussions for the policy and regulatory space available to policy makers, adding however, that the AfCFTA investment protocol represents an unparalleled opportunity for AU member states to revamp the investment policy landscape.

“Trade facilitation measures can support AfCFTA trade opportunities through, an effectively designed AfCFTA non-tariff barrier mechanism, investment in standards infrastructure and strategically harmonizing standards in sectors with high AfCFTA potential and introduction of a continental simplified trade regime, to help small and informal traders gain from the AfCFTA”, it added.

The report recommended that ratification of the AfCTA, which went into force on 30 May 2019, must be followed by effective implementation and that implementation will be more effective if national AfCFTA committees are created by country trade ministries.

Looking ahead, the report considers e-commerce and integration in a digitizing Africa, and how the digital economy can interact with the AfCFTA and trade in Africa.

The Implementing the AfCFTA is about dispelling the crisis of implementation of AU decisions and initiatives and validating the AU and its Agenda2063.

During the launch – which took place in the presence of Niger’s president, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), heads of UN Agencies and top business persons from across the continent – the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe emphasized that: “For us to make the AfCFTA work, we need to make competition, industrial policies and property rights work well.” That is what the report is saying, she noted, adding “and I really urge you to read it.”

The secretary-general of UNCTAD, Mukhisa Kituyi, also spoke at the launch and highlighted “competition, investment and intellectual property rights” as crucial requirements in the next phase of the AfCFTA, as expounded in the report.

Kituyi expressed his “solidarity and partnership with ECA and AUC” and urged the African business community to “take ownership of the integration effort” on the continent.


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