March 8, 2021

The African zone of free trade enters its "operational phase"

The African free trade zone known as AfCFTA, for its acronym in English, entered today's "operational phase" during the 12th extraordinary summit of the African Union held in Niamey and dedicated precisely to this issue.

Today was the central day of this summit with the presence of the heads of state and government of the continent, and it was during this session that the leaders of Nigeria -the largest continental economy-, Benin, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea ratified their signature, among the applause from the assistants.

The summit also designated Ghana as the country that will host the permanent secretariat of this free trade zone, and also established regulations on rules of origin, tariffs, elimination of non-tariff barriers and digital payment systems, among other details.

In fact, the AfCFTA was created on March 21, 2018 at a summit in Kigali, and in less than a year 54 African countries (practically all) signed it, but it was lacking for each country to subsequently ratify its signature, and at the summit today in Niamey the figure of 27 was achieved.

With this new instrument, the African continent thus becomes the largest trade exchange space in the world: its current 1.270 million inhabitants will be 1,700 million by 2030, and among them will be 26% of the world's working-age population , the president of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said today in Niamey.

Mahamat was pleased that with the AfCFTA "an old dream comes true", a dream that he related to the very creation of the Organization of the African Union (OAU, predecessor of the AU), but did not fall in the free triumphalism .

On the one hand, he stressed that this new commercial zone is a response to an African youth dragged by all sorts of what he called "temptations" such as rural exodus, emigration, illicit traffic and cross-border crime.

But Mahamat also said that free trade by itself does not mean opening borders, and therefore insisted that the countries of the AU must also ratify the "protocol of free movement" of people; In this regard, he regretted that many countries of the AU put more obstacles in their movements to African citizens than other foreigners.

Another aspect that Mahamat wanted to highlight is the fact that for some countries on the continent there are currently priorities other than trade, such as peace and security: thus, he said that the Sahel countries devote a third of their budget to the security to the detriment of social sectors.

The African leaders were also expected to discuss the question of Sudan, a suspended country of the pan-African organization since early June, when the armed forces that now govern the country violently suppressed a student demonstration, causing dozens of deaths.

Although it seemed that this summit was the perfect occasion for the return of Sudan to the AU once the power and the demonstrators have reached an agreement, this question and others have been postponed until tomorrow, the last day of the summit.

In the same way, the situation in the most unstable countries of the continent, such as Algeria, Libya, Mali or Ethiopia, was not officially dealt with today.

. (tagsToTranslate) African (t) free (t) change (t) operational (t) input

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