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Repositioning Africa under the AfCFTA

Movement of People and Social Integration

It is not by accident that the most glowing example of free trade, and perhaps regional prosperity, also epitomises free movement of people. The AfCFTA document pays the most luscious lip-service in the history of humanity to free movement of people, which is perhaps the most insurmountable obstacle for true integration in Africa. Clearly this remains an ultra-sensitive issue for more developed nations in Africa but we must remember that Nations are forged in history, not in nature, and often the comparative advantage of a region will significantly outweigh its historically delineated construct.

Certainly, for Africa, our historical segregations and amalgamations must be jettisoned for true cooperation for development. The defects of history must not detract our potentially glorious future. No price could be placed on the opportunity afforded a young European to prospect on a continental scale, with the whole of Europe representing a nation to work, live and love even while historical identities remain celebrated.

The concept of shared prosperity is something we have to embrace, and Africans must decide whether we want to continue to be poor neighbours with tall walls or wealthy nations with picket fences. Xenophobia and self-hate will have to be relegated while we build an enduring African commonwealth. Make no mistake, these are mutually exclusive.

Perhaps Africa has a unique opportunity to set a model for the rest of the world to follow on how regional cooperation can be meaningful, genuine and all-serving. Our rich culture of communal interdependence and vested engagement should be a valuable resource in the age of social distancing.

Cooperation on Implementation and Compliance

The mere existence of the AfCFTA document and endless discussions on its potentials will do nothing for African development. If we all agree that an African aggregation that can compete in a fast-moving world is an imperative, then each nation’s commitment to implementing and complying with what has been agreed must be unalloyed.

Real cooperation and commitment begin with having the very best hands and heads converging on rule making, implementation and monitoring under the AfCFTA framework. A flood of issues including protectionism, unfair competition, subsidies, currency manipulation, exchange rates, trade disputes and sanctions will now have to be dealt with in great detail within the AfCFTA framework. Ultra-Political representations will be insufficient, and technocrats must be allowed free rein to develop a robust body of rules of engagement and dispute settlement without inordinate political interference.

The seriousness of AfCFTA implementation also prescribes the need to avoid the analysis paralysis of unattainable consensus. There has to be an efficient means of reaching decisions which African nations must commit to even when these rules become unfavourable.

Communication, Energy Technology and Shaping Future Industries

Africa needs more channels of communication to connect African businesses and organisations. Poor communication networks have  been a hinderance to the advancement of African economies. Advanced Information and Communications technology (ICT) can result to enhanced connectivity within Africa and help to increase access to goods and services. Under the AfCFTA, there is a need for the deliberate harmonisation of policies and regulations pertaining to ICT infrastructure in order to boost cross-border interconnections.

Even while still battling with debilitating energy poverty, Africa must reposition to shape future industries. Much of the resources that are essential to future industries and technology are abundant in Africa, and while holding the aces, playing second-fiddle is not an option for Africa in the next industrial revolution. Further, many African companies are exporters of natural resources or raw products as opposed to finished or processed goods.  Developing industries is therefore key as it provides African companies with the capacity to process raw materials and export finished products. Governments must also implement strategies that develop industrialization across a variety of sectors as this will increase the global competitiveness of the continent. Understanding Africa’s position in respect of the above is key to maximizing the value of the AfCFTA.

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Zion Adeoye is Managing Director For Centurion Law Group’s AfCFTA Desk

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