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African Trade Deal to Push Ahead Even If Another Virus-Wave Hits

Date: June 24, 2020


In an interview given to Bloomberg Invest Global virtual conference on 23 June 2020, Mr Wamkele Mene, the Secretary General indicated that African Continental Free Trade Area is unlikely to face any further delays even if a second wave of coronavirus infections hits the region.


“If the pandemic continues into 2021, we will develop the necessary public-health protocols to continue and to push on with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Wamkele Mene said. The secretariat will take advice from health officials as it works to implement the deal and revive economic growth on the continent.


While the agreement entered into force legally last year, commerce due to have started on July 1 has been delayed as the pandemic set back negotiations to lay the foundation for trade in goods, including tariff concessions. When fully operational by 2030, it could be the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area, with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.


Mene said that the continent’s rapid and coordinated approach to tackling the virus and introducing lockdown measures, partly due to experience in curbing infectious diseases, stands it in good stead to develop public health measures.


While the window to implement the deal is “very narrow,” African heads of state want it to move as quickly as possible once conditions allow, he said. Increased trade could revive economic activity that has been affected by the virus, which has also highlighted the need for regional value chains across Africa and enhanced manufacturing capacity on the continent, he said.


Africa lags other regions in terms of internal trade, with intra-continental commerce accounting for only 15% of the total, compared with 58% in Asia and more than 70% in Europe. The agreement is meant to help change that, aiming to lower or eliminate cross-border tariffs on 90% of goods, facilitate the movement of capital and people, promote investment and pave the way for the establishment of a continent-wide customs union.




24 June 2020​

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