This year, 7 July was earmarked a special day for the commemoration of the African integration and the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the African Union.
The establishment of the AfCFTA is a key milestone in Africa's continental integration that will greatly contribute to the realisation of our founding forefathers' dream of a united, and prosperous Africa, once fully operationalised.
The AfCFTA brings together all 55-member states of the African Union, covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion. It aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
The continent's participation in the global value chain remains minimal, with its export basket dominated by primary commodities and natural resources, accounting for less than 3% of world trade. In addition, intra-African trade continues to trail other regions, which have drawn on vibrant cross-border trade to sustain growth and economic development, as well as integrate into the global economy.
Currently, at 15%, intra-Africa trade compares unfavourably to Europe (68%), North America (37%), and Latin America (20%). Under the AfCFTA, intra-African trade is projected to rise to 52% by 2040, and Africa will have a combined consumer and business spending of $6.7 trillion by 2030.
SADC's executive secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax said as a regional economic community and one of the eight pillars of the African Union, SADC has made tremendous progress in its integration agenda and across all the eight dimensions of integration.
She noted that the region achieved free trade area status in 2008, which has seen intra-regional trade grow to about 22% of the region's total trade. At the same time, the share of the Region's trade with the rest of Africa stood at 22% as of 2019.
"As we commemorate the African Integration Day, and the establishment of the AfCTA, we should not lose sight of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, which is a one of the major building blocks towards the establishment of the AfCTA," Tax said.