The argument has long been made that if African countries establish a free trade agreement and extend it to cover an area, the countries of the continent will stand to make great economic and integration gains. As it stands, the volume of trade among African countries as compared to trade between African countries and the west is low. Africa is also the only continent with the lowest volume of trade among countries. Trade among the countries is estimated around a meager five per cent.
It is in the quest to rationalize trade and formalize it using it to enhance economic and social benefits among the countries that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was born and is being executed, but not without difficulties. Some countries are holding back and tight to their territories, chief among them is Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In the past week, Ethiopia was reported to have ratified the agreement.
On March 21, 2018, the African Union brokered the Agreement in Kigali, Rwanda.
Out of the 54 countries in Africa, 22 countries are expected to ratify the agreement to bring it into force, but so far only 18 have ratified the agreement out of the 49 that have signed, four more are expected to ratify the agreement by March 2018 to complete the deal.
West Africa, meanwhile, has the highest number of countries that have ratified the agreement. Out of the 12 members of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) who have signed the agreement, eight have ratified it. The countries in the region that have ratified the agreement are Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Speaking at the opening of a workshop of the Network of Economic Journalists for West Africa, in Monrovia, Liberia, February 5, 2019, the Acting Director of the Economic Commission for Africa – West Africa Office, Bakary Dosso, said the workshop aims to equip the journalists so they can produce fact based reports on the agreement for the benefit of the public and other stakeholders.
“The objective of this workshop is to better equip journalists about the agreement to better inform the public and stakeholders,” he said.
He indicated that out of the 22 nations required to ratify the agreement to bring it into force, 18 have ratified and the largest number is from the ECOWAS region.
In his presentation, Konzi Tei, the ECOWAS Commissioner in Charge of Trade and Free Movement said ECOWAS shares the values of free trade and a stronger continent and it is set to mobilize to fight poverty. He noted that since 1979, ECOWAS has been pursuing the free movement of its people and goods across borders.
The Liberian Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Commerce and Industry said they expect that the training workshop will boost the development of a responsible and stronger partnership with sub-regional media organisations for improved visibility and and wider dissemination of information and issues relevant to the sub-region for economic and social development of its member states.
So far no North African country has ratified the agreement. Among the East African countries to ratify the agreement include Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia. In Central Africa, Congo and Chad have.
When it is implemented, the agreement will eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, allow autonomous movement of commodity, goods and services across countries.
According to the ECA, the AfCFTA will promote intra-African trade by 52 per cent by the year 2022.
There are 31 journalists of the Network, which was formed two years ago by the Economic Commission for Africa – West Africa Office attending the workshop.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Monrovia, Liberia
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