The United Nations has expressed delight and satisfaction at the commencement of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying the agreement will enhance transparency and equity in trade across Africa.
As AfCFTA began operations on January 1, 2021, experts have viewed the New Year’s Day launch of the all important project as symbolic for Africa as it gives a hope of a fruitful year when the nearly 1.3billion people of the continent would be brought together in a more than $3trillion economic bloc.
Addressing a virtual ceremony to mark the official launch of the agreement, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed said the tariff agreements between the regional governments is a key aspect of the agreement.
“Intra Africa trade exports make up about 15% of the continent’s trade. The Africa Free Trade Area can help by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers which increase trade costs significantly. The non-tariff barriers mechanism to which the UN contributes is a key feature established to enhance transparency and the identification of non-tariff barriers.”
In a related development, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa had said that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must focus on the development of Small and Medium Enterprises as well as prioritize the inclusion of women and the youth.
He made this statement in his virtual address to mark the official launch of the agreement.
According to the outgoing Chairperson of the Africa Union and President of South Africa, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, “I appeal to all member states to spare no effort in creating conducive environments for our youth and women to benefit in the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA. Indeed, the focus of our trade agreement should be directed to a larger extent on the development and sustaining small and medium enterprises and not only on well established big companies.”
As estimated by World Bank that the free trade area could lift tens of millions out of poverty by 2035, there are jubilations and hope that the end of poverty and unemployment which are the basic problem of man in African soil may be in sight with the judicious management of AfCFTA.