EDITORIAL: AfCFTA can only make sense if it is respected

Over 1,800 of Africa’s top managers and business owners are in Kigali for yet another round of the Africa CEO Forum.

That is quite a lot of brainpower in one room and, definitely, something good must come out of it, especially building a strong African single market.

Incidentally, the meeting comes at a time when only one country remains to ratify the deal to bring the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty into force. Even then, more than half of the African countries have not ratified the treaty, a very naked expression of lack of urgency on the part of some of the world’s poorest countries.

Anything that could bring prosperity to a large portion of the population would in normal circumstances keep the country burning the midnight candle, but no; there seems to be no sense of urgency.

But even if the AfCFTA treaty comes into force, are countries ready to embrace and respect it? When even regional trading blocs have failed to make countries implement what they agreed to, what effect will the treaty have?

If countries are playing economic sabotage against neighbours, one another just out of spite when two containers of Rwandan minerals in transit disappear into thin air in Uganda or are simply held up for months, what is the future of an African common market?

The day someone can cross the border without the fear and risk of falling into the hands of state agents who have no regard for diplomatic norms of consular visits, then we will have taken a major step forward.

But countries that do not respect trade agreements should first be called to order, named and shamed with no fear of hurting feelings. Then, only then, can we begin talking of free and safe movement of goods, labour and people between our countries.

That is one area the ongoing CEO summit should think of addressing before they fly back to their respective countries.