AfCFTA must commence on 1st July despite COVID-19 Impendence – Afro Champions

  • Negotiations should continue via virtual meetings
  • Countries should prepare AFCFTA adjusted plans
  • Africa must centre COVID response around AFCFTA eg sourcing COVID 19 supplies locally
  • The economic stimulus should promote trade, not debt.  

 

AfroChampions - (Policy and advocacy think tank), has advised that the July 2020 date for the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should not be postponed at the threat of the coronavirus fecund.

According to the policy and advocacy think tank, though the highly anticipated July 2020 start of the AfCFTA is at risk, African governments can use the opportunity to rather trade in critical goods needed to fight the pandemic such as pharmaceutical and food products.

The group in their AfCFTA Year Zero Report stated that “The July 2020 date for the start of AfCFTA Trading should not be postponed even if the pandemic persists into July. If AfCFTA trading can take off in the middle of this battle – even if symbolically – will send a strong signal; it should be one of the symbolic victories for Africa amid a crisis. Initial AfCFTA trade can focus on critical goods needed to fight the pandemic such as pharmaceuticals and food products. Governments should ease border crossings for these goods.

The AfCFTA can be one of Africa’s main weapons to beat COVID-19

The report is cognizant of the risk of implementing the AFCTFA amid a pandemic and has encouraged the use of technology in maneuvering the Lockdown glitch.

“AfCFTA negotiations should continue via online and video-conferencing platforms. If done right virtual negotiations could prove to be even faster and cheaper than face to face meetings for certain aspects of the negotiations process.”

It also notes that the AfCFTA Secretariat, which is temporarily operating out of Addis Ababa, could develop a nerve centre to attenuate the setback which allows for a continuation of staff recruitment and adopting a virtual office to continue operations anywhere in the world

Among other recommendations, the AfroChampions urge the African Union to convene a major virtual meeting of African trade ministers to deliberate on ways to keep the AfCFTA on track.

“A fully virtual mode of meetings should be activated to keep the process going,” it stated.

They also called on the African Union to request Ministers of Trade to present COVID-19-IMPACT reports of their proposed AfCFTA plans or their already prepared BIAT.

“Each of the member states that have ratified should be made to present a COVID-19-ADJUSTED plan to project how they plan to catch up in the post COVID-19 period,” they added.

COVID19, AFCFTA and Matters Arising

At a virtual meeting hosted on the 16th of April 2020, by Rotary Club of Accra East District, the guest speaker David Oforsu Dorsu (AB & DAVID AFRICA) addressed the impact of   COVID19 on the implementation of the AFCFTA.

Negotiators have been impeded from travelling which puts July 2020 start of trading at risk.

Political leaders grapple with the Fight to contain COVID19 and this negates the AFCFTA has a high priority which will affect commitment and preparation.

The border closures will continue as Many African states are yet to remove the Lockdown measures.

The production level in African countries have taken a hit especially in the formal and informal sector

What can be done at the Africa/Government level/ Private sectors

The Host highlighted various measures that the Government should take to harness the potential of The  AFCFTA to mitigate the impact of COVID19

  1. Negotiations should continue via virtual meetings
  2. Countries should prepare AFCFTA adjusted plans
  3. Africa must centre COVID response around AFCFTA eg sourcing COVID 19 supplies locally
  4. The economic stimulus should promote trade, not debt.  

Good domestic business to business spending or internalized value chain system will fair better during the crisis.  The private sectors are advised to liaise with bankers to defer payments, delay fixed cost, cut expenditure cost, reduce interest rates, revise budgets and adopt measures to become economic agents of change in a single market entity –   David Oforsu Dorsu (AB & DAVID AFRICA)

Read - Africa needs more economic agents to be successful

In conclusion, There is indeed fear, uncertainty and a crippling global economy caused by COVID-19 and to say we have a solution to the pandemic is far from the truth. Today there's a steady rise of confirmed cases in Africa which has resulted in a Lockdown of activities across the region.

But what is also true is that we can focus on what we can control like the use of technology to educate, inform and explore ways of managing the impact of the pandemic. Regarding the AFCFTA work should not stop.”