Although I do believe in the principle of lifelong learning, this time I’m inspired by my insatiable desire to contribute to the successful, expeditious and opportune implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Our motherland needs it as soon as yesterday. So from Monday I’ll have the pleasure of attending a course provided by the Senegal-based African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP). I consider this a privilege for me since I’ll be joining learners from the public and private sectors from across the continent. I’m grateful that my application was accepted and I’ll use the opportunity not only to learn but also use it as a networking platform to forge strategic relationships with stakeholders from other countries.
With the emergence of regional integration and the immense opportunities accruing from there being evident, it still took Europe over 72 years to fully operationalise the European Union founding prescripts. Even after they had reached sufficient consensus that included a common currency, the United Kingom (UK) still maintained theirs until their exit from the free trade area earlier this year. Typical of colonial powers, perhaps the UK was frustrated by the immense authority and influence that Germany and France wielded in tge EU. That’s why they’re now reinvesting their resources into the Commonwealth Association in which they believe they can’t be challenged by any of its former colonies.
So while the African Union’s Anglophone member states will continue participating in the Commonwealth Association, they have to do so as a block advancing the interests of the continent – so the mandate has to be Continental as opposed to national.
It is interesting to note that while the UK exited the EU, negotiations to establish the super Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which is a free trade agreement among the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. We covered this story on 18 June 2021 declaring it the biggest trade bloc in history (https://www.jamboafrica.online/rcep-explained-the-worlds-biggest-trading-bloc-will-soon-be-in-asia-pacific/). Worth noting is that India threatens to be the spoiler that the UK was in the EU although it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning into the fold. Indeed every family has one: the EU had the UK; Africa has Eritrea; and the RCEP has India.
It is this kind of developments that for me should put Africa under pressure to ensure that effort to operationalise the AfCFTA is enhanced and accelerated. We do not have tge luxury if time. IDEP notes in the course material that as the world and Africa are changing, our institutions must catch up and keep up with the pace. That’s why they are working to capacitate in the areas of economic management and planning.
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), of which we’re profiling its Executive Secretary in this week’s edition, as focused as Africa’s premier thought leadership institution on developing and managing knowledge “and applying policy research in support of accelerated economic diversification and structural transformation.”
The other consideration for the accelerated operstionalisation of AfCFTA is the need for us to develop turn around mechanisms for our economic recovery from the ravages inflicted on us by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has undoubtedly cast the global economy into a recession of unprecedented proportions. Because if the economic lockdowns, Africa’s economy shrank by 2.1% in 2020. FDI flows into the continent declined by 16% in 2029.
Although the forecasts anticipate a 3.4% growth rate in 2021, economic recovery will remain constrained for many more years to come. It has impacted on the implementation of the AfCFTA as it has to rescheduled from 7 July 2020 to 1 January 2021 and my guess is that subdued economy will impact on the realisation of the targets that included increasing infra-African trade to 50% by 2022.
I do welcome the progress made this far, that include Burundi’s onboarding as the 38th AU member state to ratify the AfCFTA and 54 out of 55 member states having signed it. I’m not outing Eritrea which remains the only state which has neither signed nor ratified the Agreement yet but it remains Africa’s sore thumb and the leaders there have to overcome whatever reservations or challenges they may be experiencing to do what is right.
The course material further indicates to date other milestones include 30 member states having signed the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment at the Niamey Summit, “signalling a highly symbolic, formal initiative to ease restrictions on the movement of people across African borders.”
They state matter-of-factly that “the launch of the AfCFTA marks an important milestone in Africa’s long and rather strenuous history of regional integration, going at least as far back as the Abuja Treaty of 1991, which envisaged an African Economic Community as the culmination of the integration process.”
The AfCTA is likely to emerge as an influential player in the global economy, and make Africa’s voice heard across major platforms.
I’ve indicated I feel privileged to have succeeded in being accepted into this course as it is designed to build momentum for, and political ownership of, the AfCFTA by empowering us with the requisite tools for Africa’s continental integration. The strategic imperative of economic recovery post-COVID-19 is rendering the deepening of regional integration on the continent a matter of urgency as African economies need to rebuild – and rebuild resiliently and sustainably.
I’m humbled that the course developers are confident that we as participants will play a significant role in making the AfCFTA work – not just for our own countries but for Africa as a whole as the need for solidarity is emphasized throughout the course. The course will enhance our capacity in supporting our countries to implement the AfCFTA. I hope this will help to entrench me as one of the foremost thought leaders on the AfCFTA and be a strong proponent for the successful implementation of the Agreement on the continent.
I will give a critical feedback to you my dear readers in two months after completing the course. I’m passionate about this because I believe Africa’s integration project is the most potent arsenal for our decolonisation – not only politically but also economically. Talking about our psychological liberation, our article on the deliberate distortion of the sizes of countries’ sizes on the world map is one such effort (see our article on https://www.jamboafrica.online/mercator-misconceptions-clever-map-shows-the-true-size-of-countries/). This reminds me of the profound observation by Mark Shuttleworth, the first billionaire Afronaut, who remarked that once you’re in space and look at planet earth, there’s no reason why Africa and other countries below the equator should be placed there on the world map because the earth is round. He was addressing such mischievous effort aimed at psychologically conquering us.
So as various societal sectors, we have to know Africa’s integration is too significant to be left to the politicians. We have to mobilise our people to pressurise the political elite to not only sign the AfCFTA, but also to ratify and implement it as a matter of urgency. The world is changing and it will not wait for Africa. We should refuse to be left alone. Now is the time!
Enjoy your weekend.