African leaders are in Niger for the summit on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to be held today.
The meeting is critical as it draws the continent towards exploiting its great economic potential and providing better livelihoods for its largely impoverished people.
For centuries now, Africa has been the source of raw materials and human capital for the other regions of the world, but a happy hunting ground for foreign manufacturers to exploit the continent’s huge population as market for their goods.
Africa, we say, has come to its senses. The AfCTA seeks to integrate economies by reducing trade barriers including tariffs, thus increasing opportunities for the 1.2 billion people. Over time, different parts of the continent have grouped themselves into constellations such as East African Community, Southern Africa Development Corporation, Economic Community of West African States and the Common Market of East and Southern Africa.
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These pacts have only served to segregate the continent further, with goods from Europe and Asia finding easier access to the retail stores than those from fellow African neighbours. As the 50 states sit to deliberate on how to accelerate the free trade area, they must put aside any differences and strive to craft a solid and genuine deal. There are those that were opposed to the deal, such as Nigeria and it is good that they are now willing to sign.
As much as each nation has to look after its own trade interests, a free market will eventually balance out everyone’s interests for common good.