Addis AbabaThe African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could help African economies recover from the impact of COVID-19, according to trade experts.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Regional Integration and Trade Director, Stephen Karingi on Monday told journalists that AfCFTA could facilitate continental economies to recover.
“Boosting intra-African trade can serve as an alternative stimulus package for job creation, foreign exchange, industrial development and economic growth,” said.
Karingi noted that “our economies would have been more diversified, stronger, and less affected by COVID19” if Africa had implemented agreements and frameworks such as the AfCFTA, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa, and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).
However, he stressed “COVID-19 has proven that African countries can adapt and respond to demand.”
UNECA’s report on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa states that between 300,000 and 3.3 million Africans could lose their lives as a direct result of the pandemic.
Given the urgent need for governments to focus efforts on protecting lives from COVID-19, the July 1, 2020 start date for trade under the AfCFTA has been moved to at least January 1, 2021.
Such delay offers window of opportunity for creative thinking on how the AfCFTA can be reconfigured to reflect the new realities and risks of the 21st century, he pointed out.
“This is needed to better position the African economy in the face of future adverse shocks emanating from novel viruses and climate change, among others,” Karingi elaborated.
Stating the need to maintain the AfCFTA momentum and ambition that existed before COVID -19, he emphasized that it will enable Africa to recover and build long-term resilience.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of digital technologies, Karingi said, adding “member states should consider front-loading negotiations on e-commerce to coincide with the closely linked phase II negotiations of the AfCFTA.”
African Trade Policy Centre Coordinator, David Luke stated the need for Africa to diversify its sources of supply chain.
He added that even developed countries that depended on only one or two countries for critical parts of their supply chain are now talking about localizing production.
“COVID-19 has shed light on the underdeveloped status of African supply and value chains and that supply chain diversification fits very well into the industrialization agenda that Africa already has,” Luke said.
Moreover, the Coordinator said “we need to think creatively about how our existing development frameworks could be adapted to emerging opportunities generated by this crisis.”
Source: Ethiopia News agency