A future whereby post-independent Africa is self-reliant could be drawing nigh after 54 African Countries inked the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), a notion which lingered in the minds of most Africans but dilatory in its manifestations, and only came into effect on 30 May 2019. Nigeria being the recent Country that signed the landmark agreement which convenes all African Countries except for Eritrea, spells out an economic utopia for Africa where intra-African trade has been as low 14%. According to Africa Union (AU), the AfCFTA is projected to create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc and boost intra-African trade by 60% by 2022. However, some issues need to be addressed to ensure that the treaty does not remain static calligraphy cursives penned on paper.
Regional feuds have been rampant in African Countries that neighbour each other not forgetting the recent xenophobic tendencies that manifested to looting and attacks of fellow Africans. These rows usually to do with territories have placed neighbouring African Countries at loggerheads. For the AfCFTA to be a reality, border disputes between Countries ascertaining their sovereignty should be ironed out with the bigger picture of social, political and economic cohesion in mind. As Kenya’s (a Country currently on a border conflict with Somalia) President Uhuru Kenyatta said, ‘Borders must never be used as an excuse for us to retract back and forget the African spirit of Ubuntu. We remain stronger together.”’
Statements released by the US State Department on July 11 made mention of that the corruption ‘endemic’ is slowing down foreign investments in Kenya. Many African nations engrossed in corruption have earned Africa the title as one of the most corrupt Continents in the world. In fact, six of the ten most corrupt Countries in the World are African Countries according to a Transparency International report of 2018. The recurring corruption phenomena across African Countries could serve a major stumbling block to the realization of Africa’s Free Trade. Not only should African nations be concerned with loosing foreign investments but should augment structures in ensuring that the African trade bloc centres around trust and transparency.
Poor infrastructure reduces Africa’s GDP by about 2 percent every year and inhibits productivity by up to 40% year, as observed by the World Bank. Poor transport links within and between African Countries adds around 30-40 percent to the cost of goods in intra-Africa trade. Efforts by the AU in driving Infrastructural Development agenda with key flagship projects such as the Integrated High-Speed Train Network should be speeded up and governments ought to lift stringent travel requirements as well as develop their transport and ICT structures in plugging the Infrastructure gap and realizing the AfCFTA.
Interference by the west backed by elites in African Countries can deter implementation of the AfCFTA. The West has been notorious for meddling in African affairs and peddling motions. Always present like a shadow, the West impose, directly and indirectly their suppositions in a neo-colonial fashion for their own benefit. The Scramble for Africa is still throbbing and vested interests by other Countries affects how Africa conducts its trade. If the West kept off the trade pact, then the trade pact could just work for Africa.
The AfCFTA could be the last ode to the ‘trade vs aid’ chorus that Africa has sang. The players, i.e. all African Countries, however must be cognizant of the prevailing forces that could engender the agreement not to take full effect. African nations should aggregately address their insider issues to ensure that the economy -which has tipped owing much being taken out and little taken in- soars. As Au’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga submits, Africa should ‘rise and prevent other forces in determining our destiny.’