By Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is going to suffer a serious setback as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. When it’s operational phase was launched in Niger in July 2019 Member States were buoyant about boosting intra-African Trade which stands at 13% compared to intra-European Trade which stands at 59% and the intra-Asian Trade which stands at 65%.
The work of the AfCFTA is cut out. The first trading under the auspices of the AfCFTA will take place on the 1st of July 2020. In September 2020, the 2nd Intra-Africa Trade Fair will take place in Kigali, Rwanda. Egypt held the inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo in December 2018.
The AfCFTA now has a new Secretary-General to head the Ghana-based Secretariat. He is South African. Congratulations to SADC. The Coronavirus is set to slow the smooth consummation of the AfCFTA since countries have closed their borders and declared lockdowns.
It will take a little more time to crank the AfCFTA once the Covid-19 virus is contained and officially declared as over. Its twin protocol, the Protocol on Free Movement, right of entry, right of establishment and right of residence has also been affected as free movement of people has been curtailed. The other Protocol affected is the Single African Air Transport protocol because airlines have been grounded.
In fact, Africa will need some sort of a Continental Marshal Plan in order to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s when Africa should prove it can use its abundant rich resources to stimulate its economies and spur sustainable Growth using trade as an engine for inclusive growth. This will require Leadership but it can be done.