The African Union is pushing for the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area that seeks to enhance economic competitiveness at all levels and guarantee a larger market for its businesses considering its 1,2 billion plus population.
It is expected that the CFTA will boost intra-Africa trade, by eliminating dependence on the exportation of low value primary products and promotion of social and economic transformation for inclusive growth, industrialisation and sustainable development in line with the Union’s Agenda 2063.
The CFTA should be operational by 2017, which is not too far way and requires that all stakeholders get the ball rolling right away to meet the deadline.
As reported in The Herald Business edition of today Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said negotiations for the CFTA will commence later next month after the formal launch by the African Union Summit scheduled for South Africa.
Meanwhile, Ministers from the member states have finalised a document and preparations for launch of a tripartite free trade area, to be launched next month at a meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, during a Heads of State and Government Summit.
Sadc is chairing the tripartite arrangement, meaning Sadc chair President Mugabe, will preside over the meeting in Egypt. The three regions alternate leadership of the Tripartite Free Trade Area.
The TFTA will feed into the CFTA.
It is our fervent hope that the meetings to chart the way forward regarding the eventual gigantic market place will translate into tangible actions backed by clear implementation matrix to realise the objectives for mutual benefit of the members.
We also hope that the member countries will come up with some sort of monitoring and evaluation mechanism, reporting back regularly on progress and challenges to ensure that the enlarged trading bloc becomes a reality. In the increasing new global economic order, it is indisputable that it is now a numbers game apart from innovation and technology which give a cutting edge to competitiveness and Africa has the numbers to support its own interests. Other than mutual trade among Africans, who better understand each other’s background and history, African countries face similar challenges when trading with the outside world, as such it is time Africa has its own CFTA.
African countries lose billions of dollars due to unfair trade practices on global markets and participate in market places governed by rules and regulations to which they had little to no input and therefore disregards their interests. The objectives of the CFTA include making Africa to unlock its potential to expand and accelerate the growth, diversification and benefits of intra-Africa trade.
That includes its target to increase by 50 percent by 2022 through liberalisation and facilitation regimes and instruments across regions and Africa in general.
Apart from boosting trade and bringing transformative impact to Africa, the CFTA will create freer market for goods and services building on the trade agreements within regional economic communities and associated commitments.
It is envisaged that this large market place will consequently pave the way for, ultimately, accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union.
The CFTA should get all the support that it deserves from member countries as it speaks to the aspirations of Africans for homemade solutions to their development problems and optimum exploitation of their resources, which must be beneficiated and value added prior to being exported.