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Why Africa’s Free Trade Area Offers so Much Promise

The free trade area aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over USD$ 6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending – that’s if all African countries have joined the free trade area by then. Ten countries, including Nigeria, have yet to sign up

The free trade area aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over USD$ 6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending – that’s if all African countries have joined the free trade area by then. Ten countries, including Nigeria, have yet to sign up.
The goal is to create a
single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
The agreement has the potential to deliver a great deal for countries on the continent. The hope is that the trade deal will trigger a virtuous cycle of more intra African trade, which in turn will drive the structural transformation of economies – the transition from low productivity and labour intensive activities to higher productivity and skills intensive industrial and service activities – which in turn will produce better paid jobs and make an impact on poverty.
But signing the agreement is only the beginning. For it to come into force, 22 countries must ratify it. Their national legislative bodies must approve and sanction the framework formally, showing full commitment to its implementation. Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou, who has been championing the process, aims to have the ratification process completed by January 2019.
Cause and effect

Some studies have shown that by creating a pan-African market, intra-Africa trade could increase by about 52% by 2022. Better market access creates economies of scale. Combined with appropriate industrial policies, this contributes to a diversified industrial sector and growth in manufacturing value added.
Manufacturing represents only about 10% of total GDP in Africa on average. This falls well below other developing regions. A successful continental free trade area could reduce this gap. And a bigger manufacturing sector will mean more well-paid jobs, especially for young people. This in turn will help poverty alleviation.
Industrial development, and with it, more jobs, is desperately needed in Africa. Industry represents one-quarter to one-third of total job creation in other regions of the world. And a young person in Africa is twice as likely to be unemployed when he or she becomes an adult. This is a particularly stressful situation given that over 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is below age 30.
In addition, 70% of Africa’s youth live on less than US $2 per day.
The continental free trade area is expected to offer substantial opportunities for industrialisation, diversification, and high-skilled employment in Africa.
The single continental market will offer the opportunity to accelerate the manufacture and intra-African trade of value-added products, moving from commodity based economies and exports to economic diversification and high-value exports.
But, to increase the impact of the trade deal, industrial policies must be put in place. These must focus on productivity, competition, diversification, and economic complexity. News24

The Express News

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