African Leaders Sign Continental Trade Agreement

Heads of State and Governments who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) have signed the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), which is intended to ensure significant growth of Intra-Africa trade.

The CFTA will also assist countries on the continent use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and for sustainable development.

It will, among others, reduce the vulnerability of the continent to external shocks, enhance the participation of Africa in global trade as a respectable partner, to reduce the continent’s dependence on foreign aid and external borrowing.

This was made known at the closing ceremony of the 28th AU Summit on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The agreement is in furtherance of the commitment made by African leaders in Addis Ababa in 2012 towards the establishment of the CFTA.

At the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU held in January, 2012, in the Ethiopian capital, the Assembly endorsed an Action Plan to boost intra-Africa trade through the operationalisation of the CFTA by 2017.

The Action Plan was specifically aimed at deepening Africa’s market integration, and significantly increasing the volume of trade that African countries undertake among themselves.

The plan also outlined a programme of activities required to remove all bottlenecks and obstacles to intra-African trade.

A key feature of African trade is its low level of intra-African trade, insignificant share of global trade and high external orientation.

Intra-Africa trade accounts for some 10 percent of Africa’s total trade compared to about 60 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent intra-regional trade achieved by Europe, North America and ASEAN respectively.

At around three percent, the share of Africa in global trade is insignificant. In terms of the direction of Africa’s trade, exports are mainly to Europe and USA (57 percent) and in recent times to China.

Again, with the numerous free trade areas existing across the globe such as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Africa has no choice but to reduce its vulnerabilities with the creation of a CFTA.

The CFTA, therefore, will create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, thus paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

Additionally, the CFTA aims to expand intra African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes, as well resolving the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.