• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Perspective: Why Africa needs to embrace the AfCFTA

Perspective: Why Africa needs to embrace the AfCFTA

As an African Union media fellow who recently toured the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) headquarters, I came away with a clear message, Africa: it’s time to trade in one African market.

A few days ago, I had a sit-down with the Chief of Staff of the AfCFTA, Mr. Silver Ojakol, the Chief Technical Advisor on the African Continental Free Trade Area, Prudence Sebahizi, as well as the director of information and communications for the AU, Leslie Richer. Allow me to share with you some of my learnings and the immense potential of the AfCFTA initiative for the average Nigerian in Lagos, the Ovambo community in Namibia, or the Zayanes small business owner in Morocco.

Read also: What to know as Nigeria prepares to enter the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative

Think about this: Currently, Africa only trades about 20 percent of its goods and services internally. The AfCFTA aims to push this number to at least 50 percent. It would mean harnessing the power of our combined economies to create a continental market brimming with possibilities.

Here are a few reasons every African should embrace the AfCFTA:

Jobs, jobs, jobs: Increased trade translates to a thriving business environment. More businesses mean more jobs, especially for Africa’s young and growing population. And this isn’t just about big corporations; the African continental free trade area would empower small and medium-sized businesses that are, in fact, the backbone of our economies.

End to reliance on others: Let’s face it, Africa is basically the world’s raw materials manager. We have everything on this continent—from shiny diamonds to enough farmland to feed a small planet (literally, 60 percent of arable land!), yet we often rely on others to turn those resources into finished products. The AfCFTA is our chance to create our value chains, become self-sufficient, and become less dependent on fluctuating global prices. We can even start exporting finished goods, like, say, intricately carved furniture made from African wood like the Teak (Kiaat) in Angola or the Iroko in Nigeria.

A united front: Forget “Wakanda Forever” for a minute; let’s make it “One African Market!” As a united economic force, through the AfCFTA, Africa can negotiate better trade deals and stop getting the short end of the stick. This is like our powerful bargaining chip on the world stage. It’s time to embrace the integration that AfCFTA brings.

Read also: Stakeholders hold fair to drive investments, enhance AfCFTA trade

Innovation: A stronger, more interconnected Africa fosters innovation and knowledge sharing, where we can unleash the creative African spirit. Imagine a continent where our vibrant fashion scene isn’t just a local phenomenon but a global trendsetter! The world needs a little more Ankara flair and Kente swagger on all the runways in the world, and the AfCFTA can pave the way for that to happen.

But here’s the catch:

The AfCFTA is only as strong as its implementation. It’s like a brand-new smartphone—even though it is amazing, it won’t work miracles if you leave it in the box. As Africans, it’s time to hold our governments accountable. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative doesn’t stop at paperwork and policies; it means investing in Africa by Africa, growing our economies, speaking with one voice, creating an Africa without borders, and fostering economic integration plus increased cooperation on the continent.

As it stands, we are sitting at 54 out of the 55 AU member states that have signed the agreement, and 47 have ratified it. This not only shows the determination of our beloved continent to unite but also reveals a collective desire to break free from the chains of fragmentation.

Apart from the government, as individuals, it’s time for us to be mindful of where the products we consume come from. In your little corner, commit to supporting local and small businesses, and look out for the “Made in Africa” labels so that we can get to the point where we consume what we produce and produce what we consume.

Read also: AfCFTA failing to open single market for Africa’s 1.7bn people -Report

The AfCFTA is our chance to rewrite the narrative of Africa’s economic future. Intra-trade among African countries must now take centre stage. The goal is clear: we want to create a thriving, interconnected African economy that benefits all of its citizens.

 

Adesewa Olofinko is a Media Fellow of the African Union.