The African Centre for Economic Transformation, (ACET), has advised member countries of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), to take advantage of its political momentum to advance continental integration.
The Centre said regional integration had long eluded Africa but remained critical if the continent was to attain growth with depth.
Professor John Asafu-Adjaye, Senior Fellow at ACET, said this at the virtual launch of the Centre’s 2021 African Transformation Report on Thursday.
The Report dubbed: “Integrating to Transform” sought to tackle three major frontline challenges including; ensuring productive employment for Africa’s teeming youth, supporting digital innovation and managing climate risks.
Professor Asafu-Adjaye said the AFCFTA, which came into effect in early 2021, gave new impetus to African integration, adding that it also offered a pathway for accelerated transformation.
“In broad terms, the AFCFTA establishes a free trade area that progressively eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade among the member states. That will help countries boost growth, diversify their exports beyond unprocessed commodities, and attract more foreign and domestic investment.
“But to achieve growth with depth, countries should use the AFCFTA’s political momentum to look beyond trade and markets to advance integration in other areas,” he said.
He noted that even though African countries had made significant strides in terms of good growth over the past two decades, progress in actual transformation in their economies had slowed due to lack of integration among them.
The AfCFTA offers an opportunity for African countries to move integration beyond just trade and markets, towards collaborating to address the long term challenges that constrain Africa’s development, Professor Asafu-Adjaye said.
He therefore, called for greater collaboration among member states to help remove barriers that had slowed progress in the past.
“Greater regional collaboration – especially through the delivery of regional public goods such as transport corridors and digital connectivity – will help remove barriers that have slowed progress in the past,” the Senior Fellow said.
As of February, 2021, 54 of the 55 African Union Member States had signed on to the Agreement, of which thirty-six countries (including 19 African least developed countries, or LDCs) have deposited their instruments of ratification.
Dr K. Y. Amoako, President of ACET, commended African leaders for the collaboration over the past year, particularly on the COVID-19 pandemic which he said had saved many African lives.
“We see an opportunity for a similar approach, guided by visionary leadership, to enable transformative growth,” he added.