An official pact that could prevent trade tensions under the soon to be implemented Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is almost ready.
This strategic initiative is under teh auspices of the African Union and the International Trade Centre that seeks to make key recommendations on the various products and services that could be productive to respective African countries.
This is expected to provide solutions to countries in an effort to avoid an overlapping of export sector priorities as countries could potentially prioritize similar produce ahead of AfCFTA implementation next year January.
Indeed, AfCFTA represents a major opportunity for countries to boost growth, reduce poverty, and broaden economic inclusion, this according to a World Bank report released this year.
It added that if the agreement is fully implemented, the trade pact could boost regional income by 7 percent or US$450 billion, speed up wage growth for women, and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.
Instructively, industry analysts have indicated that the products and services that would be provided by countries under the agreement will be key to boost the expected regional income of US$450 billion.
They have suggested that achieving these gains will be particularly important given the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to cause up to US$79 billion in output losses in Africa by the end of 2020. Already, The pandemic has caused major disruptions to trade across the continent.
Early this year, the Acting Executive Director of the ITC, Madam Dorothy Tembo revealed to the Goldstreet Business that its outfit in collaboration with the AU have commenced an assessment of the different sectors under AfCFTA to precisely establish where each country has enormous advantage in the area of value addition to the products being produced.
She noted that aside the assessment being carried out, there was the need to have a better understanding of what is actually being produced, at what cost and whether it is being done in the most efficient way.
“This is the type of conversation we needed to have and to see also where the potential lies in terms of trying to make countries work together through a collective effort. It’s the value addition that remains critical”, she insisted.
Diversifying trade report
An earlier report released by the ITC on diversifying trade in Africa entreated African countries to develop a regional strategy due to the degree of overlap of sector priorities at the country and regional level, further insisting that overlapping sector priorities could become a potential source of tensions during AfCFTA implementation.
Most importantly, neighbouring countries find themselves very often prioritizing the same type of agricultural products. Examples include cashew and various foodstuffs being prioritized by Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia as well as countries outside the West African sub-region such as Tanzania among others.
Despite this potential source of trade tensions, the ITC insists that the AfCFTA can provide the opportunity to change the strategic direction of the continent, as the current strategic focus is on a very narrow range of agricultural and primary products.