Monday, May 28, 2018
In March 2018, heads of state and government and senior officials of 44 African countries met in Kigali, Rwanda to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. The goal of the AfCFTA is to create a single continental market by reducing duties and tariffs, easing the movement of people, goods, and services between African countries, and harmonizing trade policies with the hopes of expediting regional integration, boosting intra-African trade, and, ultimately, increasing Africa’s share of global trade.
The AfCFTA will create the largest free trade area since the advent of the World Trade Organization, according to the African Trade Policy Centre. Further, the UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA could increase intra-African trade 52.3 percent above current levels. Increased trade could have the important effect of providing additional employment for youth, diversifying African exports, and propelling Africa toward achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. While the large number of African states that have signed the agreement is promising, a long road remains ahead for implementation and realization of all potential benefits of the agreement.
Several key challenges lay ahead that could impede the success of the AfCFTA if not addressed. These include the fact that eleven countries did not sign the agreement, as well as the challenges of actualizing and tracking the progress of implementation. This event will seek to address the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of AfCFTA implementation with the goal of providing concrete, effective, and sustainable recommendations for the way forward and to set the stage for increased intra-African trade.
The United States has partnered with the continent to stimulate economic growth, encourage economic integration, and facilitate Sub-Saharan Africa’s integration into the global economy through vehicles such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA aims to expand U.S. trade and investment with Sub-Saharan Africa, stimulate economic growth, encourage economic integration, and facilitate Sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy. This event also looked at how the United States can continue and strengthen its support for Africa’s regional integration through the implementation of the AfCFTA, particularly through promoting investment in infrastructure and value-addition beyond current reliance on primary commodities.
This event was in celebration of Africa Day, a day honoring Africa’s identity and unity.
“It has taken many years of hard work for the continent to get to this agreement, and this in and of itself, is a cause for celebration. Furthermore, the Continental Free Trade Agreement should not be seen as a standalone initiative, but as a building on the regional economic cooperation and integration efforts that have been built over the years. And so, we have a foundation there on which to implement this agreement.”
“As Dr. Kaberuka said, that perhaps this is the most historic decision that Africa has made since independence and I would tend to agree with that. That if Africa really gets this right, and puts its energies and its forces behind it, this could really transform the continent, and from my perspective, it could be a game changer in terms of the legacy that your generation leaves for Africa’s youth.”
“Coming together is not simply an economic objective, it has huge implications for security, for safety and for prosperity. I’ll be concluding this letter by sharing with you that the aim of the safety is not simply to increase trade. It increases more than trade, it might be having of greater security of the continent.”
“The CFTA is not simply about goods, it’s also about services. So, even if your country-- you don’t have a lot of manufactures—just think when you bring a container from Dubai to a country, so there is a car inside but there’s also trade finance, insurance, logistics, data, a lot of services associated with that one product. In fact, we estimate that half of the benefits come from CFTA will not be about physical goods, it will be about services.”
“It is not important simply to remove tariffs and non-tariffs restrictions. Our population will be exploding. There is something called the demographic dividend, a number of all the people are fewer, younger people are fewer, so with a large workforce. But this large workforce, we need a larger economic space. And the only way to benefit from the demographic dividend is to ensure that we have the CFTA and non-tariffs restrictions out of the way.”
H.E Étoundi Essomba
“I love the perspective brought about by Dr. Kaberuka in terms of trying to dissipate the fears. Fears that might come from the size of our respective countries, from the nature of our respective economies, to tell us there is nothing to maintain and entertain this fear. We have every reason to believe that this achievement will benefit the whole continent. The essence of this message is a positive one and as such we are sitting here as representatives of the continent.”
“One of the challenges facing us is in engaging those we want to convince to walk with Africa. Sometimes they are not open-minded enough to comprehend.”
H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao
Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United States of America
Africa Program Director
African Union High Representative for Financing of the Union and Peace Fund and 7th President of the African Development Bank (2005-2015)
Ambassador Stephanie Sanders Sullivan
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State
H.E Étoundi Essomba
Ambassador of Cameroon to the United States and, Co-Chair of the African Ambassadors’ Group
H.E. Kerfalla Yansane
Ambassador of Guinea to the United States