The African Union (AU), Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, has said Africa is doing the right thing in creating the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), despite the current retreat from multilateralism. Delivering the keynote lecture at the second edition of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Trade and Development Seminar Series, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Muchanga said the physical deglobalisation that was taking place in the world had created a need for strong regional economies.
He noted, for instance that although the World Trade Organisation (WTO), was failing to come up with new multilateral trade agreements, more countries were still applying to join that world body and that no countries were clamouring to leave it.
Muchanga explained that the establishment the CFTA flowed from the vision of the AU to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens representing a dynamic force in the international system.
With more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, over $3.4trillion in aggregate GDP, thereby being one of the 10 largest economies in the world, the CFTA was a commercially viable undertaking, and would be among the largest free trade areas in the world in terms of population, he stated.
He added that to generate strong gains on soft issues, the CFTA will bring about economic stability and growth in Africa, and will address issues of trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity and trade information on the continent.
It will also tackle the challenge of trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, and factor market integration, including free movement of people, free movement of capital, and right of establishment.
Earlier, in a welcome address, President of Afreximbank, Dr. Benedict Oramah, said the timely conclusion of negotiations for the CFTA had confirmed the commitment of African leaders to pursuing regional integration.
Oramah noted that with the CFTA coming on stream in a period when multilateralism and plurilateralism were under attack in many important regions of the world, questions had been raised about its future under such an environment.
“While the speed with which the CFTA has been concluded appears to indicate Africa’s preference for unity, we have to be mindful that the attainment of the ultimate goal of the CFTA of strengthening Africa’s role in global trade may be more difficult to achieve under the wave of isolationism sweeping across other markets,” he warned.
The Seminar was followed by a dinner hosted by Afreximbank in honour of Egypt’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for African Affairs, Mohamed Edrees, who has been posted to New York, as Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The Afreximbank Trade and Development Seminar Series was introduced in 2016, to promote excellence in African trade and development, and to provide a platform to articulate African trade and development finance issues, while enhancing the role of the Bank as a global player in development economics, trade and development finance.
The seminar series also provides an opportunity for global leaders in the business and development community, experts, diplomats, leading policy makers and representatives from the academic community to share perspectives on African trade and economic development issues.