The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will boost private sector growth and reach in the continent, panellists participating in an Infrastructure Africa session on restoring economic growth, connecting African countries and optimising the AfCFTA, on June 22, concurred.
AfCFTA policy network Ghana executive director Louis Afful said the AfCFTA was a good option to enable African markets to have access to each other and was the “best opportunity perspective” in the area of boosting intra-African trade.
He noted that Africa had not performed well in terms of countries on the continent trading with each other, especially compared with other regions of the world that had been trading “massively” among themselves for some time.
Afful stated that the AfCFTA was important because, over time, it should result in the development and implementation of one trading standardisation for African products and a uniform harmonisation of such products being registered.
Further, he said the agreement would enable products that had been historically rejected for export because of certain “technical barriers” to be redirected to other parts of Africa.
This, said Afful, was good for governments because it would result in a strategic opening of economies through the manufacturing and industrialisation agenda.
He added that it was also imperative because it would create one market, which would lead to one customs union and potentially one currency, one central bank and one passport. “It is an agenda that is going to go steadily.”
However, Afful said the AfCFTA was not just about trading goods, but also about trading services, competition policies, investments, intellectual property rights, e-commerce and other protocols.
African Rail Industry Association CEO Mesela Nhlapo said the AfCFTA was an instrument that could bring about the vision that Africans were looking for, from an African perspective.
She says Africans, embracing the AfCFTA, should no longer continue being separated from each other and that to achieve the most benefits from the trade agreement, they had to work together.
One key area of development and integration was that of transport, where Nhlapo said shifts needed to be made away from road-based transport which fulfilled 90% of the needs of transporting goods and people in Africa.
She added that Africans needed to ensure they were more efficient and that they could control their own economies.
Bosch Africa president Dr Markus Thill, speaking in his capacity as African Association of Automotive Manufacturers VP, said the automotive industry in Africa, although small, needed closer collaboration between government and the private sector to make a decent automotive industry in Africa a reality.
He noted that South Africa, Morocco and Egypt had some vehicle manufacturing capacity, but that there was little local value add localisation, leading to few jobs being available the sector.
He added that the situation was exacerbated by the fact that Africa imported used vehicles to sell in its automotive markets, and was once described by an African President as “the junkyard of the world”.
Changing Africa’s image required scale and this was where the AfCFTA came into play, said Thill.