President Lazarus Chakwera has advised African governments and the African Union to do more in opening up opportunities for all economies on the continent for them to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Intra Africa Trade Fair (IATF) 2021 in Durban on Monday, President Chakwera called for additional efforts from policymakers and implementers to ensure that all Africa’s 55 economies have a fair share under all continental trade frameworks.
The Malawi leader highlighted the need to realize total connectivity across all sectors from Cape to Cairo.
“To make Intra-African Trade a reality, we must make our border procedures Intra-African; our visa policies Intra-African; our tax regimes Intra-African; our transport infrastructure Intra-African; our bus-line, rail line, and airline routes Intra-African; our electricity distribution Intra-African; our fiber and broadband connectivity Intra-Africa; our investment policies Intra-African; our industrialization and urbanization drives Intra-African; and our shops Intra-African,’ he said.
The Malawi leader, who was accompanied by 30 Malawian businesses, also observed that information is critical in ensuring that industries remain vibrant and markets, accessible.
“One obstacle we must lift to close the gap between our trading dreams and our trading realities is the lack of information about what goods and services supplied in one nation have a market in another. The Intra-African Trade Fair goes a long way to lift this obstacle.”
The theme of the fair is ‘Building Bridges for a Successful African Continental Free Trade Area’.
The AfCFTA is an African Union cross border trade tool that was established to accelerate intra-African trade and boosting the continent’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.
The fair, which will run for the whole of this week, has brought together close to 5000 participants among which are Heads of State and Government, cabinet ministers, business gurus, economic experts, 1100 exhibitors and thousands of buyers from 55 African countries. It is estimated that deals amounting to $40 billion will be sealed at the event.
The first edition of the IATF was held in 2018 in Egypt where $32 billion worth of deals were signed. A total of $25 billion deals have been implemented while the remaining $7 billion are still being processed and are at an advanced stage.
Development and economic experts say trade on the continent is nowhere near its potential. Of all the trade by African economies which is valued between $400 billion – $500 billion, intra African trade stands between at only 16 percent. This is low compared to other continents such as Europe whose intra-continental trade stands at 70 percent while North America is at 65 percent.
According to African Union, the continent must upscale its intra-continental trade to at least 50 percent by 2035.
Africa is a market of close to 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $3.4 trillion.
The IATF also seeks to continue with the alignment of policy regulations so as to allow free movement of goods and people. This comes about because Africa’s history segmented the continent in line with those who colonized different parts. As such most countries have varying standards of certifications informed by Anglophone, Francophone, Portuguese and Spanish systems.
During the opening ceremony, it was announced that the next Intra Africa Trade Fair will be held in 2023 in Ivory Coast.