The implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement is by necessity, a complex and highly collaborative undertaking, drawing on the expertise and experience of all.
For the AfCFTA to be a successful and to increase the attractiveness of the African market for trade and investment, it must be complemented by similar progress of other AU Flagship projects, such as the African Integrated High Speed Network; African Commodities Strategy; Pan-African E University; the African Passport and Free Movement of People; Silencing the Guns; Implementation of the Grand Inga Dam Project; Creation of an Annual Consultative Platform for policy dialogue; Single African Air Transport Market; Pan-African Virtual University; and the Continental Financial Institutions.
The interlinkages with other critical economic sectors, the AfCFTA will similarly advance the progress in the implementation of the other sectors such as:
1. PEACE AND SECURITY AND TRADE
Peace and security are essential preconditions for sustainable economic growth and development, including trade. A stable and secure environment is necessary for businesses to operate, for investors to make long-term commitments, and for workers to be able to produce goods and services. On the other hand, trade itself can also contribute to peace and security by promoting interdependence and fostering economic and social connections between countries. This can lead to a reduction in tensions and the likelihood of conflict.
2. TRADE FACILITATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE.
Trade facilitation measures address major challenges such as increased trade costs arising from Non-Tariff Barriers; inadequate, inefficient transportation and weak logistics infrastructure; cumbersome regulatory procedures; lengthy customs processes; and incoherent documentation, thereby placing Africa’s private sector at a competitively disadvantaged position. Africa must then accelerate work on improving the supply-side constraints such as the lack of good transport and logistic infrastructure, information and communications technology (ICT), and energy infrastructure by aggressively implementing the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) to ensure a successful and sustainable industrialisation agenda and thus a successful AfCFTA.
3. HARMONIZATION OF STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS.
Effective collaboration is also required for harmonized standards and regulations. This is to be achieved through standards development, mutual recognition, harmonisation that fosters increased rate of diversification, industrialisation and transformation of Africa’s economy and boosts the continent’s ability to supply its import needs from its own resources. It is also aimed to integrate systems so as to benefit from an increasingly connected global marketplace. This will include promotion, identification of the African Standardisation priorities activities through development, harmonization implementation of standards for identified priority products; promotion and coordinate technical competence of the African Quality Infrastructure bodies and related legislations to enhance the competitiveness of products of African origin and African Small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) to facilitate the intra-Africa Trade.
4. TRADE AND CLIMATE RESILIENT DEVELOPMENT.
There is need to mainstream climate change issues, including land degradation, into the AfCFTA implementation by advancing climate resilient development through several pathways including, renewable energy and transformative green industrialization; agriculture, food and nutrition security and climate change adaptation; strengthening development finance institutions; engaging in multilateral forums and; contributing to a compact on a global green new deal that advances Africa’s interests on climate resilient development. Policy innovations to unlock climate finance for resilient Food Systems in Africa are critical. The African Risk Capacity (ARC), a Specialized Agency of the African Union, plays a key role in capacitating African governments to better plan, prepare and respond to effects of extreme weather events and natural disasters and build a more resilient Africa that is adaptable to climate change towards building resilience in Africa which was positive ripple effects on the Agricultural sector and economic growth by unlocking critical climate and DRR finance.
5. ENHANCED EDUCATION SYSTEMS
The importance of skills development, employability and opportunity driven entrepreneurship in helping Africa realize its continental trade objectives cannot be overemphasized. Although Africa continues to experience a youth bulge, there is a mismatch between existing education and training and the skills needs of enterprises. Critically important is the need to foster not only the skills needed by enterprises today but also the skills of the future. To strengthen African businesses’ competitiveness in the context of the AfCFTA, the priority is to invest in human capital to equip Africans with the skills needed to engage in skill-intensive manufacturing industries. The improvement of Education system, innovation and technology in supporting the AfCFTA market and to encourage startups towards job creation is important.
6. ENHANCED HEALTH SECURITY.
Over 90% of the global public health emergency events reported annually are from Africa. The continent has the lowest health workforce to population ratio in the world while carrying majority of the disease burden. In addition, 90% of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics are imported to Africa making the continent dependent on the rest of the world, even during crucial pandemic periods. The COVID-19 Pandemic and the preceding 2014 Ebola Disease Outbreak have demonstrated that trade within Member States of the African Union and between Africa and the rest of the world can be significantly affected by public health emergencies. Without careful consideration of health security in the continent the realization of AfCFTA will not be attained. This requires establishing and maintaining the trade and health nexus in the continent.
The operationalization of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Africa Medicines Authority (AMA) are considered as golden opportunities to mainstream health into AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is a gamechanger for the African continent and year 2023 presents yet another opportunity to strengthen partnerships, mobilise resources, undertake outreach activities and promote the utilization of the AfCFTA by economic operators through unceasing engagement that will sustain the high momentum around the AfCFTA. Beyond the continent, the Theme of the Year 2023 is expected to strengthen the role of the African Diaspora, People of African Descent and create a meaningful like between the implementation of the AfCFTA and the Decade of African Roots and Diaspora (2021-2032) by driving initiatives aimed at bringing together, projects, events and other initiatives to strengthen the role of these group in advancing the economic integration of the AfCFTA.
Source: Information and Communication Directorate, African Union Commission I E-mail: DIC@africa-union.org