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Let’s also use AfCFTA to beat COVID-19 !

Official appeal from AfroChampions Initiative to African Heads of State to convene a virtual summit to keep AfCFTA on track.

 

In an official appeal made public on April 22, the AfroChampions Initiative calls for convening a virtual summit of African Trade ministers under the aegis of the African Union to keep on track the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is expected to start in July. This high-level meeting would be an opportunity to discuss practical measures to pursue African economic integration despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with two objectives: first, to take advantage of the existing AfCFTA provisions to respond to the health emergency, and second, to consider a broader strengthening of capacities and infrastructure to help Africa recover from the crisis over the long term.

In its formal appeal, the AfroChampions Initiative proposes the summit to also include economic decision-makers, heads of African multinationals and business associations as well as representatives of the continent’s major financial institutions. The agenda should be concise and action-oriented. First, operational measures to address the pandemic shall be reviewed, such as the removal of tariff and non- tariff barriers for the free movement of goods, medical supplies and commodities required to limit the spread of the coronavirus as well as its effects on communities. Second, overall strategic measures shall be discussed, such as continuation of the existing negotiations on key AfCFTA aspects, operationalisation of the AfCFTA Secretariat, prioritization of some initial implementation protocols starting July 2020 that will help Africa recover quicker from the economic disruptions of COVID-19.

 

” COVID-19 is a reason to accelerate AfCFTA; not slow it down as is now the case “

 

“Some observers believe that the AfCFTA is meant to fail because the required infrastructure is not yet in place,” Paulo Gomes, Vice President of the AfroChampions Initiative and Former executive Director at the World Bank said. “COVID-19 is a reason to accelerate AfCFTA; not slow it down as is now the case. Being confronted with an emergency forces us to move forward. In the current crisis, we can implement measures in the health sector to support local production of equipment and treatments, boost orders of ‘made in Africa’ pharmaceuticals and medicines, optimise transport and logistics costs, and facilitate deliveries from one point to another in spite of travel restrictions. On all these points, the AfCFTA can provide concrete answers. From this test in the health sector, we can draw useful lessons for other sectors”.

 

“In this delicate period, Africa has been able to receive some – very welcome – aid and financial support from other regions of the world. However, we should not be naïve : the economic crisis that will follow the health crisis will be a tough and long-lasting one, and we must ensure that our economies become more resilient and self-reliant”, HE Olusegun Obasanjo, Patron of the AfroChampions Initiative and Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said. “The world after the pandemic will no longer be the same; intercontinental connections, global trade in goods and financial flows will be disrupted. If we remain a continent that simply produces raw materials and continues to depend on foreign purchases, without infrastructure and local industries, no doubt that we are heading to economic death. The AfCFTA can prevent that, by allowing us to build our own market”.

 

While hoping that the proposed virtual summit of Trade Ministers will be confirmed soon, the AfroChampions Initiative and its research department have developed a first set of proposals for discussion on how the AfCFTA can adjust to COVID-19 disruptions to stay on track, as well as an indicative assessment of African states’ readiness ahead of the practical opening of the African common market. Several business leaders from the AfroChampions network and regional business associations have also been approached to contribute to this agenda.

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