Mr Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, says Africa is reshaping her small and fragmented markets to create one integrated market with large economies of scale and scope.
He said Africa’s economic integration was no longer a matter of choice, it was necessary, if Africa was to industrialise, develop intra-regional trade, strengthen capacities to benefit from globalisation, reduce vulnerability to fluctuating overseas markets, mobilise and maximise scarce resources of capital and skills.
Mr Mene was speaking at the ongoing Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey on the theme: “A vision for Development in Africa.”
The forum is to stimulate discussions on continental development efforts and beyond Africa with emphasis on AfCFTA.
“Africa needs to forge the way to effective African unity, both political and economic,” he said, noting that currently, countries on the continent survived mainly on exports of a very narrow range of primary commodities to traditional markets of the North while being heavily reliant on the import of capital goods.
The Secretary-General said as a result, African countries did not trade with each other that much.
In Europe, 70 per cent of trade happens within the continent, in Asia it’s just over half (51 per cent); but in Africa, no more than 18 percent of trade is between African countries.
He said as it was well known, Africa’s over reliance on exports of primary commodities was detrimental to the achievement of its economic development vision.
The Secretary-General said exports of raw commodities generally attracted low prices with insufficient foreign exchange revenues, while downstream, along the traditional exports value chains in the destination market countries, considerable wealth and jobs were created.
“There is, therefore, the need to take action to dismantle this colonial economic model by transforming the structure of Africa’s economy from the primary commodity export-based one to a manufacturing industrial export-driven economy.”
He said AfCFTA presented a renewed opportunity for Africa to steer its economic relations away from excessive primary commodity dependence and reliance on external creditors/donors to a new economic model based on self-reliant cooperation, value-addition and industrial activities.
“With the AfCFTA, we have an opportunity to accelerate intra-African trade and to use trade more effectively as an engine for growth and sustainable development,” he added.
He said beyond trade in goods, AfCFTA covered other trade-related issues that were critical to foreign direct investment strategies and activities.
These include trade in services, competition policy, intellectual property rights, investment, dispute settlement and digital trade.
Mr Mene said the finalisation of all the protocols would greatly contribute to deepening economic integration in Africa.
“With these additional protocols, we are further transforming the continent by removing physical and commercial barriers that have hitherto hindered trade among our countries,” he said.