The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement will have great economic, trade as well as social advantages for Africa if the African continent advances in infrastructure connectivity, an Ethiopian scholar said on Thursday.
The AfCFTA agreement, which is regarded as the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries covering over 1.2 billion people, started on January 1, 2021.
Speaking to Xinhua, Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, Professor of public policy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said that the continental free trade pact is a great initiative by African governments to promote intra-African trade, and is expected to cement the kind of unity that is a prerequisite for Agenda 2063, a master plan for transforming Africa into a global powerhouse of the future.
“This will have great advantages. For one, this kind of union will create currency unions, eventually Africans will be able to trade within the same currency especially in different regions,” said Costantinos.
“And there are a lot of challenges to it, mainly infrastructure,” the expert said, as he emphasized that Africa should harness its demographic dividend in order to effectively exploit the full potential of the AfCFTA.
“Africa has a lot of resources, it has human resources — a very young population; it has natural resources, minerals, oil; it has agricultural land and it has plenty of water; and, therefore, Africa should not be dependent on foreign aid, and African can actually be an exporter of many products. The problem is we are not even interacting within Africa,” he said.
The AfCFTA, which was launched in March 2018 in Kigali, capital of Rwanda envisaging a long-standing goal of creating a unified continental market, has so far garnered 54 signatories, offering a new hope and continental exhilaration in terms of boosting intra-African trade, and eventually augmenting Africa’s development and industrialization.
Costantinos, who served as an economic advisor to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), however, stressed that the continent should heavily invest in the development of infrastructure to effectively realize the ambitious free trade initiative.