Africa: Free Trade - Africa's Golden Opportunity

Walvis Bay — Africa has a unique opportunity to significantly advance the continent's economic status and reverse the current socio-economic challenges the continent is facing.

This is according to the secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Wamkele Mene. Mene addressed entrepreneurs at the official launch of the Africa Economic Leadership Council yesterday in Swakopmund.

He said the private sector and the youth are the driving force of the AfCFTA, which was established by the 55 African Union (AU) member states to create a single continent-wide market for goods and services and to promote the movement of capital among Africans.

"AfCFTA has the potential to increase employment opportunities and incomes, helping to expand opportunities for all Africans. It is expected to lift around 68 million people out of moderate poverty and make African countries more competitive in terms of trading with the rest of the world," Mene remarked. However, he said, Africa will never achieve the desired outcome if African states trade individually instead of in unison as a continent.

"We should also not think that this agreement is for the African governments. It is for the business sector and the African youth. They are the ones that will transform Africa into the unique continent we all desire and not their respective governments," Mene said.

He added that Africa only contributes 3% to global trade, while Singapore, a single country, contributes 6% to global trade.

According to him, intra-African trade is a mere 18% compared to intra-European trade that stands at 70%; intra North American trade at 60%, and intra-Asian trade 35%.

"Africa is at the lower end with intra-regional trade and we know from experience and by looking at other continents, that you do not trade your way out of poverty," Mene noted.

Also speaking at the same occasion, the executive director for international trade in the trade ministry, Ndiitah Nghipondoka-Robiati said Namibia is currently looking at how it will benefit from the trade agreement.

"For instance, do we have the institutional framework and capacity to implement the agreement? Once we have done that, we will go to Cabinet and present our submission," she said.

She added that it is important that Africa undo the legacies that hamper trade among African states. "It is for us to undo this scenario because of this history. But we need to harmonise all our policies to allow us to trade freely in Africa as a continent," she said.

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