Editorial: Consensus around AfCFTA proof that true African unity is possible

Rwanda is set to host an Intra-African Trade Fair from September 1-7, 2020 as part of broader efforts to boost trade on the African continent.

The development was announced as African leaders gathered in Niamey, Niger for the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

It will be recalled that when African countries first signed on to the AfCFTA agreement in Kigali in March, 2018 few believed that nations would go on to honour their obligations, starting with ratification.

Yet, all but one African nations have since signed the protocol, with Nigeria and Benin the latest to endorse the historic trade deal, on course to create the world’s largest free trade zone.

The ratification process is also going on smoothly, with half of the signatories having completed the process.

Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are the latest to deposit their instruments of ratification with the African Union Secretariat.

Indeed it is encouraging that AfCFTA has entered into force within a little over a year of its signing and yesterday’s launch in Niamey of the deal’s operationalisation represented a new chapter in efforts to bring down barriers to intra-African trade.

The 26th Extraordinary Summit of African Union Heads of State and Government also decided that countries will start trading under the pan-African framework on July 2020, while Ghana was picked to host the AfCFTA secretariat.

In the meantime, the AU will look to fast-track talks on key instruments which will see countries agree on aspects that need clarity to ensure successful implementation of the trade deal.

And the technocrats are being meticulous and leaving nothing to chance. For instance, it has been agreed that the framework should provide for protection of infant industries and small informal traders, while matters of rules of origin, payments and settlements systems and non-tariff barriers have also been taken care of.

As negotiations continue around key elements of the framework it is important that Rwandan business community increasingly position itself strategically to ensure that by this time next year they will be able to truly tap into the opportunities presented by this historic trade agreement.

Looking at the momentum that has been building around matters AfCFTA over the last one year or so, there is no doubt that Africa is on course to greater things.

The consensus that is being forged around AfCFTA is an indication of what a more united, integrated Africa can achieve together.