AfCFTA could help Africa bounce back, note trade experts

AfCFTA 12 MayThe African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could help African economies recover from the impact of COVID-19

This is said by the director of regional integration and trade at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Stephen Karingi to an online group of journalists on 11 May.

“Boosting intra-African trade can serve as an alternative stimulus package for job creation, foreign exchange, industrial development and economic growth,” said Karingi.

He said if Africa had implemented agreements and frameworks such as the AfCFTA, pharmaceutical manufacturing plan for Africa, the comprehensive Africa agriculture development programme and the accelerated industrial development for Africa plan, the economies would have been more diversified, stronger and less affected by COVID-19.

He cited, among others, the examples of South Africa where U-Mask has redirected its production from protective masks for mining and agriculture to that for medical respiratory masks, and Nigeria where the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure produced made in Nigeria ventilators.

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Therefore, given the urgent need for governments to focus efforts on protecting lives from COVID-19, the 1 July 2020 start date for trade under the AfCFTA has been moved to at least 1 January 2021.

Karingi said such delay offers a window of opportunity for creative thinking on how the AfCFTA can be reconfigured to reflect the new realities and risks of the 21st century, stating “this is needed to better position the African economy in the face of future adverse shocks emanating from novel viruses and climate change, among others.”

David Luke, coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, reiterated the need for Africa to diversify its sources of supply chain. He noted that COVID-19 has shed light on the underdeveloped status of African supply and value chains and that supply chain diversification fits very well into the industrialisation agenda that Africa already has. 


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