AU urges African businesses to take lead in continental free trade area

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat holds the instruments after they were signed by the heads of state and representatives from various African countries in Kigali. (File)

HARARE, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The African Union Commission (AUC) on Wednesday urged African businesses to take the lead in exploiting trade and economic opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which entered into force in May.

A senior official in the AUC, Khauhelo Mawana, said multi-national businesses were already positioning themselves for the market and it was prudent for African businesses to be on the forefront in their own market.Mawana was speaking at a consultative forum to come up with Zimbabwe's national strategy on implementing the AfCFTA in the capital Harare. "Multi-national businesses are already strategizing to take full advantage of the AfCFTA market.

Some business delegations have visited the AUC enquiring on how they can invest on the continent within the context of the AfCFTA. African businesses should take the lead in trading in the AfCFTA market. It is their market," Mawana said.He said it was important for Africa's private sector to be fully prepared to do business in the continental free trade area.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Southern Africa Office director, Said Adejumobi, said African countries must move with speed to exploit opportunities in the AfCFTA. "The AfCFTA is obviously a moving train, and the earlier countries engage it, and strategize to benefit from it, the better for our member-states. There is a lot to gain, and opportunities to explore in being part of the AfCFTA initiative," Adejumobi said.

He said the AfCFTA has immense opportunities for increasing intra-regional trade, enhancing production, promoting economies of scale, creating jobs, raising incomes and improving the standard of living of the African people. Studies, he added, suggest that if successful, Africa's manufacturing sector will double in size, with annual output increasing from 500 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to 1 trillion dollars in 2025, and contributing additional 14 million stable, well paid jobs.

Estimates from UNECA also suggest that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by over 50 percent through elimination of import duties. "However, the AfCFTA has to be backed up by increased production capacity, enhancing regional value chains, and removing internal obstacles to the growth of SMEs so that African countries can compete well in the liberalized regional market," said Adejumobi.

The UNECA official said Africa's tourism sector remains underdeveloped and there were tremendous opportunities for intra-Africa tourism in the continental free trade area. "The AfCFTA can unlock such potentials as goods and services move freely and expectedly soon, human mobility will accompany such process," he said. 

 

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