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African Continental Free Trade Area biggest 2019 win for the Motherland

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Dec 25, 2019 - 1:25:37 PM

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Historic photo of representatives from participating countries at the African Continental Free Trade Area Summit, held March 17-21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The 2019 implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has to be the year’s most significant accomplishment for Africa.

After the continent’s exploitation through the Berlin Conference and its devastating consequences, African heads of states finally came together and reached a consensus, observed Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, former African Union permanent ambassador to the United States. With her dismissal from her AU post, the Zimbabwe-born, HBCU-trained medical doctor turned diplomat has become a spokesperson for Pan African unity and the African Diaspora.

“They (African leaders) signed what was called the African Continental Free Trade Area. This is an agreement that will bring together a combined GDP of $3 trillion, a workforce of 1.2 billion people, and a marketplace you can establish yourself in one part of Africa (that) can expand like wild-fire throughout the continent,” she said.

When the former ambassador made the declaration during a recent two-day visit to Philly, a standing room only audience at Community College of Philadelphia shouted, “Hallelujah!”

She likened the beginning of the African free trade area to the “birth of a baby” and described the trials and tribulations of the African Union as necessary discomfort or difficulty experienced during pregnancy.

The African free trade area will be the world’s largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994.

Professor Landry Signe, a Rubinstein fellow at the Global Economy and Development Program and Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institute, estimates that under a successfully implemented agreement, combined consumer and business spending in Africa will reach $6.7 trillion by 2030. He also says AfCFTA will impact manufacturing and industrial development, tourism, intra-African cooperation, and economic transformation. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa predicts the agreement will raise intra-African trade by 15 percent to 25 percent, or $50 billion to $70 billion by 2040, compared to trade without the agreement.

The International Monetary Fund projects that, under Af-CFTA, Africa’s expanded and more efficient goods and labor markets will increase her overall ranking on the Global Competitiveness index.

Increased market access, in turn, is expected to enhance the competitiveness of industries and enterprises and bring other benefits, reported

At a time when the United States, Great Britain and France appear “under siege,” Africa building continent-wide sustainable economic infrastructure is a necessity. President Trump’s nationalism and impeachment is hurting U.S. global influence. Defining Brexit and its ramifications appear to be the only agenda item for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s foreseeable future, and France is facing crippling transportation and union strikes and protests with no end in sight.

The France-backed and printed CFA franc used by West and Central African states to undergird their currency is egregious that the influential UK-based Financial Times repeated a warning given to French President Emmanuel Macron that the CFA franc didn’t look “sustainable for France to continue this arrangement.”

“The political costs may be outweighing the economic gains,” said Carlos Lopes, high representative of the Commission of the African Union, who noted CFA franc stability had benefited French exporters and investors.

Dr. Chihombori-Quao, speaking in Philadelphia to a group of Black journalists, said, “They (Western powers) don’t do coups anymore, they simply create instability in an African country. So when you hear of instability in an African country, ask yourself, what is really going on?”

France and other Western nations who depend on the instability of Africa, as the former ambassador has repeatedly said, know the UK is fading out of the European Union picture and face other problems. France is pushing EU member states to contribute financial and military support for the G5 Sahel counter-terrorism mission launched in 2017 as a joint military force commanded by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and other security operations, reported

The entry of AfCFTA in May 2019 offered a unique opportunity to build world class infrastructure, accelerate industrial development and boost intra-African and global trade.

“Africa,” according to Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of UNCTAD, “has embarked on a journey of transformational change: while the international media may be portraying a dismal picture of Africans as refugees fleeing the continent on boats, the reality on the continent is much different.”

Economic integration is progressing on the continent and AfCFTA is an important development milestone.

“While the rest of the world has often felt captive to trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies, since July 2019 the 55 members of the African Union have entered the operational phase of the AfCFTA putting into action far-reaching plans to tear down barriers to trade and mobility on the continent,” said Dr. Kituyi.

“As Africa’s manufacturing sector develops and industrialization increases, the continent has the potential to become a strategic link for trade. African countries with geographic advantages, such as South Africa or Nigeria, should look to develop free trade zones similar to JAFZA. (JAFZA is the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, an economic colossus that accounts for $93 billion in annual trade and nearly one-quarter of Dubai’s GDP.) Numerous ports in Africa have potential, given their geographic positions and strategic importance: the port of Durban in South Africa, of Djibouti in Djibouti, of Lagos in Nigeria, of Mombasa in Kenya, of Tema in Ghana, of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, of Douala in Cameroon, and of Tangier in Morocco, for example,” observed Professor Landry Signe.

Dr. Chihombori-Quao says her mandate is not only to promote Africa but to mobilize the African Diaspora, those Africans that migrated to the West and their descendants and those whose ancestors who originally came on slave ships. These Diaspora Africans are a principle ingredient needed for Africa’s development, and they are not under the control of European powers, she says. But, she adds, first they need to be informed, organized and unified.