According to local media reports, the newly elected Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) secretariat, Wamkele Mene, revealed that the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement will not begin on July 1st, 2020 as planned due to disruptions caused by the global pandemic. We recall the agreement which entered its operational phase on July 7, 2019, was expected to kick start in July 2020, following the ratification by 54 of all 55 African countries.
It was also reported that the AU summit which was scheduled to hold in South Africa on 30th May to encourage trade negotiators to complete their bargaining on tariff reductions, rules of origin, and other necessary regulations has been postponed.
The AfCFTA agreement, which is aimed at removing trade barriers and in turn boosting intra-Africa trade, was brokered by African Union (AU) and signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. President Muhammadu Buhari, in July 2019, after initially withdrawing assent, signed the agreement at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in the Niger Republic.
The agreement requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods traded, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), the elimination of tariffs could boost trade in Africa by 15-25% in the medium term. Once operational, the agreement is expected to create a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc, connecting 1.3 billion people across Africa, which would make it the largest trading bloc since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1994.
Specifically for Nigeria, the agreement was expected to open up the African market for key manufacturing companies in the country to support export sales whilst also raising the prospects of attracting foreign direct investment across the value chain and different compartments in the manufacturing sector.
Although the delay in implementation implies these benefits will not be seen in the short to medium term, we think it gives the country ample time to accelerate investment in critical infrastructure that will reduce the cost of producing goods locally and improve the competitiveness of local manufacturers.
In our view, African countries with the requisite infrastructure needed for large scale manufacturing activities will be better placed to attract foreign capital from multinational companies who are seeking to establish manufacturing hubs into Africa to take advantage of economies of scale as well as the benefit associated with the absence of regional taxes made possible by AfCFTA.
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AFCFTA is a powerful tool for Africa’s economic integration – ECA
The pandemic has given African an opportunity to review its poor healthcare infrastructure,
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms Vera Songwe, said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a powerful tool to accelerate regional and economic integration in Africa.
The statement was made during a virtual panel by the African Union marking the Africa Integration for the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
She urged that Continental Free Trade Agreement would be Africa’s Marshall plan. Adding that nobody could have predicted the deep effects of the economic crisis on the continent.
“We need to talk about Africa and the AfCFTA. Our Marshall Plan is the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is our plan, so let us take it and run with it.
“The Marshall Plan for Europe was about 160 per cent of their GDP traded to bring back growth after the war,” she said.
She added that implementation of the AFCFTA, would help the continent have control of its economic future. She added that the UN Economic Commission for Africa forecasts African GDP would decline by 3.2% to -2.8% in 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic.
She stressed the need for a continental financial system integration to implement a mutual system of financial stability for sub-Saharan monetary cooperation, while also urging that Africa builds on progress made from implementing The Afreximbank Exchange Facility.
“We need to ensure that as we build the AfCFTA and trade integration, we begin to build stronger, much more robust monetary and fiscal systems that can ensure that as a continent we actually can work with each other in a more effective way,” Songwe said.
She also urged that the pandemic has given Africa an opportunity to review its poor healthcare infrastructure, citing countries like South Africa, Ethiopia and Morocco developing new healthcare systems.
Songwe was joined on the panel by Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Mr Benedict Okey Oramah, the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mr Wamkele Mene, first Secretary-General of the AfCFTA; Mr Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary-General COMESA; and Paolo Gomes of AfroChampions.
The panelist jointly agreed that the economic crisis due to COVID-19 was an opportunity for Africa to learn lessons on the needs for Industrial developments by producing its own pharmaceutical industry.
Tax debt payments extended to August 31- FIRS
Tax debtors are to liquidate their outstanding tax liabilities on or before August 31.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) announced it on Wednesday that it has extended the waiver of penalty and interest window on tax debts owned by businesses and individuals from June 30 to August 31, 2020.
In a statement by the Director Communications and Liaison Department, Mr Abdullahi Ahmad. The Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami said the extension is a sequel to palliative measures set up by the FIRS to help businesses and individuals deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
“The latest extension applies to tax audit, tax investigation and desk review assessments, approved installment payment plans under Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme yet to be fully liquidated,” he said.
He added that there would not be any extension after the August 31 due date.
He urged tax debtors to liquidate their outstanding tax liabilities on or before August 31 in order to partake in the waiver of accumulated interests and penalties.
Nami also advised all businesses and individuals who fall under the waivers to contact their nearest FIRS Regional Debt Management Office and tax controllers for further enquiries.
African Union will accelerate industrialization in order to beat COVID-19
AU is planning on improving industrial output through the establishment of the regional value chain.
The African Union says it will accelerate its industrial development drive and improve supply chains needed for Africa’s trade and logistic growth to overcome the pandemic.
In a statement by the chairman of the AU and South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, the AU is planning on improving industrial output through the establishment of a regional value chain with the aid of private sector stakeholders. The statement commemorating Africa Integration Day was co-signed by AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat and Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger.
President Ramaphosa added that the African free trade area is the best tool that can help the continent speed up its regional economic integration to battle the effects of the pandemic. He added that the creation of a free trade area is “defragmenting Africa to put behind us the history of small uncompetitive markets that have thwarted our efforts to achieve inclusive sustainable development for the benefit of our people.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement was signed last year and was meant to commence this year in July but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the negotiations for tariff concessions for trade in goods; a date has not yet been announced to resume negotiations.
When fully ratified and operational by 2030, the ACFTA would be the largest free trade area by land area, servicing a potential of 1.2 billion people and with combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. Of the 54 nations that have signed the agreement, only 28 have ratified it so far. Nigeria is one of the countries yet to ratify over worries of “dumping”. Internal trade in Africa is just 15% compared to Europe’s 70% and Asia’s 58%. The ACFTA when fully ratified will reduce tariffs on goods by 90% and help promote investment and movement of goods, people and capital in the continent.