AfCFTA needs dedicated fund, strong leadership to succeed

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A man sits outside the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat office in Accra, capital of Ghana, August 17, 2020. Ghanaian President on Monday handed over the edifice housing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat to the African Union (AU) for the commencement of work. (Ghana Presidency/Handout via Xinhua)

A dedicated pool of funds and effective leadership by some larger economies are needed for a successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a Ghanaian expert has said.

Director of country engagements and operations at the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) Edward Brown told Xinhua in a recent interview that the experience from the Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) showed that the absence of a dedicated fund to drive economic integration activities was a major difficulty in successful implementation.

“The lack of a dedicated fund has been a very critical issue with the RECs, so if the AfCFTA is going to work, it would have to consider putting together a dedicated fund that drives this inter-country agenda,” Brown said.

Therefore, he urged the secretariat commissioned in Ghanaian capital Accra to spend some time in identifying and addressing capacity constraints at national levels, as well as putting in place supporting organizations needed for the effective implementation of the AfCFTA.

On broader strategic issues, the ACET official said there was a need to “integrate integration disparities,” including integration gaps, and lack of skills and capacities, adding that successful implementation of the program would depend on the ability of the signatories to bridge regional differences.

The conditions for integration differ among economic powerhouses like South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya, which will benefit from further liberalization, and other member countries, said the expert.

“It is therefore particularly important that large economies display some degree of commitment and leadership to drive the implementation,” he told Xinhua.

Brown urged the continent to learn from the European Union’s experience of having Germany and France at the forefront of the agenda before other countries came on board.

The AfCFTA will not be successful if the larger economies do not truly believe in it and want to participate in its implementation, said the economist.

Brown was of the view that a strong commitment by the likes of Nigeria and South Africa to AfCFTA’s implementation would encourage other countries to join.

At national levels, Brown underscored the need to domesticate the policy, and to ensure that the private sector was adequately informed and involved.

He said the private sector needs to bring their views and concerns to the table for national strategies to be developed in ways that are consistent, aligned, and harmonized with the overall AfCFTA agenda. Enditem

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