Legal, policy and transactions specialist David Ofosu-Dorte wants the July 1 starting date for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) maintained. According to him, the move will engage the consciousness of African leaders and push them to support each other – not only to fight COVID-19 but also begin to boost intra Africa trade volumes.
He believes the commencement of AfCFTA in July will be a significant indicator for African leaders to start ramping up their industrial powers to begin exporting to other African countries during and post COVID-19. He is optimistic that this will be very efficient for African countries that took the Boosting Intra-Africa Trade strategy – which is a component of the AfCFTA – seriously from the beginning.
The Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade was infused into the AfCFTA to specifically help deepen Africa’s market integration and significantly increase the volume trade that African countries undertake among themselves.
“This is a signal that companies and government must start preparing. The July date is significant as well, because it doesn’t make us go to sleep; it makes us do the things that we are able to do within the period. And when trade starts it will help us with adequate preparation, as it will take some time for trade to pick up.”
He advised that virtual meetings can be held and contracts can be signed to keep operations running among African companies and suppliers. “This will put some pressure on all of us so that we can hit the ground running when COVID-19 is over,” he said on the Eye On Port programme.
His views are coming on the back of the Economist Intelligent Unit (EIU), the London-based business intelligence unit, which is predicting that African countries are likely to postpone AfCFTA taking effect from July 1 this year (2020).
The London-based business intelligence unit is making the prediction based on the hesitant behaviour of some African countries – like Nigeria, which has closed its land border since August 2019 in a move to curb smuggling and protect its local industries.
Other important economies, such as Ethiopia and South Africa, are gripped by domestic crises that are absorbing reformers’ energies. The EIU is of the view that while pan-African institutions like the African Union and AfDB continue to push for action, it expects the agreement’s activation to be postponed until at least the end of 2020.
This has a telling effect on the proposed free trade area, as well as its Secretariat that will be located in Accra. Per the EIU’s forecast, this could be another timeline missed – and this is not too hard to believe, since evidence on the ground lends credence to the assertion.
Sluggish implementation of necessary legal changes and other obstacles will therefore see the vast majority of African states fail to meet the July 2020 deadline, the EIU maintains.