Addis Ababa, 22 December 2020, ECA – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should be made to work as it is the continent’s only path to sustainable development, Coordinator of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) David Luke said.
Speaking today at a webinar on effective coverage of the AfCFTA, Mr. Luke said all societies only developed when their productive capacities, productivity and competiveness were expanded, driven by trade, and Africa could not be an exception.
“Let’s not underestimate the importance of this AfCFTA initiative,” Mr. Luke said. “There’s no plan B; we have to make this AfCFTA work.”
Revenues from trade were in multiples of receipts from sources like investments, remittances, foreign direct investment and foreign aid, he said.
The AfCFTA aims to create the world's largest free trade area with the potential that brings together more than 1.2 billion people with a GDP of over $2.5 trillion and usher in a new era of development. It has the potential to generate a range of benefits through economy of scale, trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment, and poverty reduction.
The agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries – the minimum number required by the treaty. To date, 34 countries have submitted their instrument of ratification to the African Union Commission (AUC).
Trading is due to commence on 1 January next year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be postponed from 1 July this year. Mr. Luke urged journalists covering its implementation not to shy away from critically reporting the issues but to be accurate in their reportage.
“As journalists, call out what is not working and commend what is working,” he said. “This is the way you’ll ensure accountability and ensure that these commitments that are being made to African people are fulfilled.”
ATPC Senior Adviser Yinka Adeyemi also appealed to journalists not to allow external forces to take control of the AfCFTA narrative by amplifying disputes that would arise from the agreement rather than emphasizing the opportunities the agreement would bring.
“AfCFTA is our own story to tell; we must not allow others to take control of the narrative,” he said.
ATPC experts spoke on the current status of the agreement, implementing national strategies and the gender agenda.
Through the ATPC, the ECA has been working with the AUC and member states to deepen Africa's trade integration and effectively implement the agreement through policy advocacy and national strategy development.
The ECA also works closely with the International Trade Centre (ITC), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and a selection of independent trade experts with the financial support of the European Union (EU) to support its implementation across the continent.
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