Free trade in Africa promises boost to intra-regional business

aumeetThe closing ceremony of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Image source: au.int/Flickr)Africa's intra-regional trade was expected to increase by US$34.6 billion in 2022 with establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)

According to a report launched on the sidelines of the African Union Summit of Heads of States and Government, the CFTA has the potential of translating into real income gains of more than $290 million.

A release issued by the Information and Communication Service of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said the summit was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia based on the theme of ‘Boosting intra-African Trade’.

Speaking at a press conference, ECA’s regional integration and trade division director Steven Karingi, said a report had been published against the backdrop of a surge in the establishment of new Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and a commitment to strengthen existing RECs across the continent.

He added that with the small economic and population sizes of most African countries, and the current global financial and economic environment, regional integration was a formidable instrument for sustaining current economic growth trends across Africa.

The report highlighted a number of challenges to free trade including the lack of or poor conditions of trade-related infrastructure, customs burdens, legal procedures and the lack of diverse production structures across the majority of countries in Africa.

It emphasised that establishing the CFTA and boosting intra-African trade would therefore “require countries to look beyond the short term losses in tariff revenue and commit huge financial resources to eliminate trade facilitation bottlenecks”.

Speaking at the meeting, African Development Bank principal trade expert Calvin Manduna said, “There is a great enthusiasm and we are seeing tangible changes taking place on the ground as ordinary traders and the private sector creates the demand to make the CFTA a reality.”

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