AfCFTA could help African economies bounce back

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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could help African economies recover from the impact of COVID-19, said the director of regional integration and trade at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Stephen Karingi.

Africa’s economies would have been more diversified, stronger, and less affected by COVID-19, if Africa had implemented agreements and frameworks such as the AfCFTA and other development plans of pharmaceuticals and agriculture as well as industrial development, said the director in his online address to a group of journalists on Monday.

“Boosting intra-African trade can serve as an alternative stimulus package for job creation, foreign exchange, industrial development and economic growth,” said Karingi.

“COVID-19 has proven that African countries can adapt and respond to demand,” he said, mentioning, among others, the examples of South Africa where U-Mask has redirected its production from protective masks for mining and agriculture to that for medical respiratory masks, and Nigeria where the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure produced ventilators.

Between 300,000 and 3.3 million Africans could lose their lives as a direct result of the pandemic, according to an ECA report on the impact of COVID-19 in Africa.

Therefore, given the urgent need for governments to focus efforts on protecting lives from COVID-19, the start date of July 1, 2020, for trade under the AfCFTA has been moved to at least January 1, 2021. Such delay offers a window of opportunity for creative thinking on how the AfCFTA can be reconfigured to reflect the new realities and risks of the 21st century, said Karingi, underlining that “this is needed to better position the African economy in the face of future adverse shocks emanating from novel viruses and climate change, among others.”

Stating that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of digital technologies, Karingi said member states should consider front-loading negotiations on e-commerce to coincide with the closely linked phase II negotiations of the AfCFTA. Enditem

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