Trade experts have called for the swift implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to help lift Africa out of an economic downturn caused by COVID-19 pandemic
Speaking at a trade forum in Dakar, Senegal, AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said that the pandemic had, for the first time in 25 years, caused a contraction of GDP of between two to five per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
"This decline will manifest itself in reduced exports and loss of employment, among other challenges," said Mr. Mene.
"However, it is projected that the implementation of the AfCFTA will boost intra-Africa trade by $35 billion (Sh3.8billion), increase value-chain development across all sectors, enhance the competitiveness of industry and reduce the trade deficit by 50 per cent," he added.
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Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations insisted that Africa must work toward operating as a one trade block by January 1 next year.
"ITC is fully engaged in helping the African private sector to convert opportunities offered by the AfCFTA into concrete business transactions," she said. She also announced the launch of One Trade Africa, a new ITC programme to unlock the full business potential of the AfCFTA targeted at micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
She said that, as for any regional integration process in the world, it takes time to design the conducive ecosystem, adjust and strengthen institutions, build the right trade infrastructures and empower the citizens to play an active role and access opportunities offered by the single trade area.
Also present was Mr Samba Ndao, Secretary General of Senegal’s Ministry of Trade and European Union Delegation Team leader Amaury Hoste and ECOWAS Commissioner Tei Konzi.