Unlocking Opportunities in AfCFTA

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To Oramah, Africa must leverage the opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provides to facilitate trade and economic growth in the region.

He said: “The pandemic has taught us that there comes a time when every group of people fends for themselves and there comes a time when you must be independent.

“I hope that the message that this pandemic is teaching us about independence will help us to integrate our continent better so that we will trade better, invest among ourselves better and promote our growth and development as a people without always looking out for others to bail us out.

“The pandemic has shown so many weaknesses we have across our continent, not only from the point of view of infrastructure but from the appropriate economic policies that would help drive growth and also help manage events of the kind we are experiencing today,” he added.

He said many African countries were not prepared for the shock that came with the pandemic.

“The priority for our governments should be to make sure that the AfCFTA gets implemented without delay.

If there was any doubt about the importance of that agreement that our leaders so courageously put in place about two years ago, this COVID-19 pandemic has told us that this is the way to go,” he stated.

He said building a sustainable supply chain within the continent was pertinent.
Oramah said: “We have to put away all reservations we have so we can build supply chains across Africa. This is the only way we can begin to foster dynamic growth in our continent.

“If we do not do that, we would remain perpetual commodity exporters and we have seen what perpetual commodity exporters suffer when we have events like this as oil prices have crashed and there was no market for it.

“At the same time, companies and countries were looking for medicals and pharmaceutical supplies and we did not have the infrastructure to produce them as well as the capacity and we were waiting to be supplied from outside. And the supply chains were all disrupted.

“So, the AfCFTA is the answer and we must waste no time and use this opportunity to overcome whatever challenges that we may have at or country level and even collectively as a continent.

“When we start with it, we would be able to build the health infrastructure, manufacturing base, physical infrastructure that would connect so that when we are confronted with events like this, we would be able to handle them.

“Another thing we need to do is to build a domestic capital market. Today, we have 55 countries, the stock exchanges are fragmented, not liquid and quite small, many economies do not have strong financial systems and I have never seen any continent that developed without a strong financial system.”

In his contribution, Coons said collaboration among the countries in Africa would aide economic recovery.

“I look forward to the future of Africa and its development. Before the pandemic, we have supported strong and significant investments to unlock the potential of Africa and to provide for more robust growth and foster partnership.

“It is important first to look at the rate in which African leaders have responded well and quickly and so far the response has gone fairly well.

“I am encouraged by the progress by the AfCFTA, by the ways in which the African Union emerged from Ebola stronger and I support the multilateral institutions that we would need in order for all of us to prevent future pandemics and to recover from this one.

“As the world’s youngest continent, there are ways that we can partner to invest in and create excitement among African youths,” he added.

According to Coons, lessons from the pandemic should be used in building the foundation for rapid and sustainable growth as well as investment in Africa’s youths, badly needed to transform the continent.

He stressed the need to support entrepreneurial development in the continent.
To Chikoti, the task of economic recovery on the continent rests on both the government and the private sector.

“The responsibility of COVID-19 does not rest on the government alone, the private sector needs to play a big role in lifting the burden of the pandemic. African governments need to accept the support of the private sector in alleviating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa,” he added.

Speaking further, Chikoti said: “I think all vulnerable countries should be able to receive as much help and support as possible. We have countries that have lost completely their economy. For example, the tourism and hotel industry have completely collapsed in most countries.

“So that means that food security as very much been impacted. So, we have to improve the private sector that engages with societies and also digitalise at a greater pace so that ICT and technology becomes successful in many countries.”