Africa's Integration: Not an Option, but an Imperative
Implementation of AfCFTA brings with it prospects of freer trade within the continent, and the development of Africa’s internal markets. AfCFTA has the potential to generate jobs, lift wages, spur innovation, increase competition, create wealth, generate wider options for consumer choice, and sustain social and economic growth and development across the continent. It represents the aspiration of a continent and its people in keeping with Africa’s own vision for itself, enshrined in the AU’s Agenda 2063. The International Trade Centre has identified the business sector as the main beneficiary of a successful FTA in Africa. In its assessment, opportunities and challenges have been identified for the sector resulting from AfCFTA implementation, which is sure to result in both winners and losers. Trade liberalization can lead to lower production costs, enhanced value chains and a wider array of goods and services. However, greater competition can also result in loss of viability for some companies as systems of protection are lifted, and production and demand can move from higher to lower cost centers. Pan-African organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing fifty national chambers, have important roles to play in ensuring that the views of the business sector are well integrated into the design and implementation of AfCFTA. But entities such as these need to ensure they are included in the discussions regarding the sector. In a review of the implementation of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the business sectors of both Europe and Africa claimed they were insufficiently represented in the design of programs and policies which aimed to put the sector at the heart of the partnership agreement. Given the vital role the business sector must play in Africa’s development, it is imperative that the sector acts to ensure that its views are well represented in all decisions and that it has an active role in implementation.