Delegates pose for a group photo after the opening session of the Executive Council of Ministers of African Union meeting in Kigali. Timothy Kisambira.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Tuesday stressed that concerns regarding the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are “more perceived than real.”

The statement was made by Said Adejumobi, ECA’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, as he urged African countries that are yet to sign or ratify the AfCFTA deal to focus on the positive advantages of the free trade pact in contrary to the possible concerns in ratifying the AfCFTA, which he described as more perceived than real.

“I am sure there are fears and concerns on the issue of ratifying the AfCFTA. Some of those could include the fear of competitiveness, especially of local industries in a much-liberalized market, the issue of jobs associated with it, government revenue etc,” an ECA statement quoted Adejumobi as saying on Tuesday.

“Those fears are more perceived than real, and this platform will offer African countries a unique opportunity to dispel those fears, raise issues, make clarifications, and come to a common but better-informed understanding, on why we should be part of the AfCFTA process,” he added.

The ECA director also emphasized the multifaceted socioeconomic benefits of the continental free trade pact to signatory countries.

“The AfCFTA will complement national efforts in diversifying the economy, promote manufacturing and stimulate agricultural production with increased and expanded market, which should offer great opportunities for agro-processing as well,” said Adejumobi.

The ECA had recently hailed the AfCFTA as “one of Africa’s milestone trade policy” that would serve as an impetus towards transforming Africa’s future development.

“The AfCFTA is one of the milestone trade policy developments in Africa which is expected to change the way Africa does trade and catalyze transformation in a way trade policy has not done before,” the ECA had said in a statement recently.

The AfCFTA, among its major aspirations, calls for a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investment, paving way faster establishment of a customs union.

Once fully operational, the free trade accord is projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2022, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

The AfCFTA, which was launched on March 21 last year in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in July this year added Nigeria and Benin to its growing list of signatories, leaving Eritrea as the only member of the African Union that has not signed onto the historic accord. Enditem

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