COVID-19 poses risk to smooth operation of AfCFTA – AU

The African Union (AU) says COVID-19 poses the most formidable risk to the smooth operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

AU in a statement, Tuesday, ahead of an industrialisation-themed continental meeting said, “COVID-19 pandemic has further heightened the risks of perpetuating the continent’s trade and business vulnerability.’’

It stressed that the pandemic and its attendant disruption of global supply chains have brought to the fore the urgency and significance of driving industrialisation in the African continent.

“More fundamentally, the pandemic has openly exposed the hollowness of African economies on several fronts, including the fragility and weakness of Africa’s industrial capabilities,” the AU said.

The AU, however, emphasised that while COVID-19 was creating a significant economic and health crisis, it also presents an invaluable opportunity for the continent to re-configure its development narrative toward prioritisation of initiatives that help accelerate Africa’s industrialisation.

It added that the development of strong regional and local value-chains can be a game-changer to build a resilient small and medium enterprises’ production capacity in the continent, to seize the business opportunities emanating from COVID-19-induced disruptions of global value chains.

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The statement came ahead of the AU’s high-level industrialisation-themed continental summit, slated for November 20 to 25 in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

The summit will be held under the theme “Industrialising Africa: Renewed commitment towards inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and economic diversification.

According to the AU, industrialisation prospects for the continent are anchored on unleashing the growth of small and micro-enterprises (SMEs) guided by the African Union SMEs strategy.

Trading under the AfCFTA agreement was launched in January 2021. Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA will create a single African market for goods and services.