The United Nations has welcomed the commencement of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) saying the agreement will enhance transparency and equity in trade across the continent.
The AfCFTA began operating on Friday, however experts view the New Year’s Day launch as largely symbolic with full implementation of the deal expected to take years.
The agreement will bring together 1.3-billion people in a more than R40-trillion economic bloc.
The World Bank estimates that the free trade area could lift tens of millions out of poverty by 2035.
Addressing a virtual ceremony to mark the official launch of the agreement, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the tariff agreements between the regional governments is a key aspect of the agreement.
“Intra Africa trade exports make up about 15% of the continent’s trade. The Africa Free Trade Area can help by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers which increase trade costs significantly. The non-tariff barriers mechanism to which the un contributed is a key feature established to enhance transparency and the identification of non-tariff barriers.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must focus on the development of small and medium enterprises as well as prioritise the inclusion of women and the youth.
Ramaphosa, in his capacity as outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, on Friday addressed a virtual ceremony to mark the official launch of the agreement.
He also said the governments of all member states must promote the inclusion of women and the youth within the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“I appeal to all member states to spare no effort in creating conducive environments for our youth and women to benefit in the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA. Indeed, the focus of our trade agreement should be directed to a larger extent on the development and sustaining small and medium enterprises and not only on well established big companies.”
Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement: