The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) will not face any further delay even if there is a rebound of COVID-19 cases in Africa according to Wamkele Mene, the deal’s Secretary-General.
Mene told Bloomberg’s Invest Global Virtual Conference: “If the pandemic continues into 2021, we will develop the necessary public health protocols to continue and to push on with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.”
The agreement signed in 2019 ( including Nigeria) was set to have started this year but has been delayed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Further negotiations on tariff concessions and tradeable goods have been put on hold.
About 54 nations have signed up to be part of the agreement but only 28 have fully beatified it.
Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria is also yet to ratify due to concerns on trans-shipment of goods entering the zone from nations not part of the agreement, Nigeria had initially hesitated to sign the deal on fears that the deal will make Nigeria a “dumping ground”.
Mene praised Africa’s efforts and rapid response In tackling the disease and introducing nearly lockdown which is a result of Africa’s experience tackling other pandemics like Ebola.
Africa is behind Asia and Europe in terms of Continental Internal Trade which is just 15% in the continent compared to 58% in Asia and 70% in Europe. The agreement will implement the free movement of people and services, reduce cross border tariffs for goods by 90% and bring the much-needed investment into Africa’s economy.
The ACFTA will be the biggest trade zone by land area when fully operational by 2030 with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion and potential market size of 1.2 billion people.
Mene said African Governments want the deal to move on as soon as possible once the conditions are right for it, urging that trade will help kick-start economic activity in areas heavily affected by the disease, highlighting the necessities of continental and regional value chains for manufacturing capacity.