Addis Ababa – The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Friday urged African regional economic communities to tap into the potential of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) Agreement.
It said that doing so would boost the existing low level of intra-Africa trade.
The ECA, which noted that Africa had the least intra-regional trade as compared with other continents and regions across the world.
It emphasised AfCFTA’s “huge significance” towards transforming the current below-potential trade relations among African countries as well as the various regional economic communities across the continent.
“The AfCFTA is expected to increase intra-African trade by more than 50 per cent, regional GDP by more than 40 billion dollars and exports by more than 55 billion dollars,” the ECA said in a statement on Friday.
The ECA, however, stressed that the positive potential of AfCFTA towards boosting intra-Africa trade would not be achieved without the necessary support from the African regional communities.
“Regional economic communities are important components of the AfCFTA,” the ECA said.
It added that the AU) was currently working with eight regional economic communities, which are considered as “the main pillars of integration in Africa”.
According to figures from the ECA, intra-regional trade in Africa currently accounts for only 16 per cent of the region’s foreign trade.
The ECA underscored the AfCFTA’s crucial role as the continental free trade pact brings together a combined population of 1.2 billion, which is expected to double and make the African continent home to 26 per cent of the world’s working-age population by 2050.
The ECA’s urgent call to African regional communities to tap into the AfCFTA to spur intra-Africa trade also came as the The African Union (AU) in a recent statement reiterated that concerted efforts were being made to realise AfCFTA’s major objective.
According to the AU, one of the AfCFTA’s major objectives is the realisation of a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
And thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the African Customs Union.
The free trade pact is also expected “to expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation regimes and instruments across regional economic communities and across Africa in general,” the AU said.
The AfCFTA, which was officially launched on July 7 during the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government in Niamey, capital of Niger,
The AfCFTA also added Nigeria – Africa’s most populous and largest economy – and Benin to its growing list of signatories.
Amid the growing list of AfCFTA signatories, the Red Sea nation of Eritrea is currently the only AU member that has not signed onto the accord. (Xinhua/NAN)