Research and Public Policy Think Tank, CUTS, says a postponement of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), would be ideal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, AfroChampions, also a Policy and Advocacy think tank, suggested that the implementation should go ahead on July 1, 2020 as scheduled, as African governments can use the opportunity to trade in critical goods needed to fight the pandemic such as pharmaceutical and food products.
Ghana is expected to host the Secretariat’s office in Accra which was supposed to be ready by March this year, but that has not happened.
Speaking to Citi Buisness News, Country Director for CUTS West Africa, Appiah Kusi Adomako, explained that as countries are still battling the COVID-19 crisis and borders remain closed to trade and movements, it is better to implement the policy in the second quarter of 2021.
“Countries are still battling with this crisis and borders are closed, infrastructure for national trade has also been distorted and if we want to still push it, some countries will still find legitimate public health reasons to still close their borders to trade and that will also dampen the enthusiasm that we all have for the AfCTA. So, we think that if we defer it to January or second quarter of 2021, it will allow countries to recover from the pandemic,” he said.
He suggested that the countries involved should use these difficult times to work on other outstanding issues.
“All the outstanding issues, which includes protocols on goods and services, rules of origin, have not yet been finalized, and so how can we trade when you have not finalized the rules of origin. So, this extension perhaps will also give the AU some time to tidy up all the raffles that they need to do, so that once we are in the second quarter of next year, no one will be cheated,” he noted.
The AfCFTA seeks to among other things establish a single market for goods and services across 54 countries, allow the free movement of business travelers and investments, and create a continental customs union to streamline trade – and attract long-term investment.
Mr. Kusi Adomako further suggested that the postponement would also allow AU and member states the opportunity to prepare for a smooth takeoff.
“With this extension, it can also give the AU and counties time to also prep the industry for trading come next year. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, but viral infections don’t last longer than six months, so, there could be a second reign of the virus. Around this time with all corridors of trade being affected, people are not in a good mood to do business, and I think that it will be better for us to hold on for some time and prepare our acts together so that when you start you can do it well.”
“If you start on a wrong page, you will see that those against the agreements will have speaking ponts against the agreement, so I think that there is a lot that we need to do before we start trading,” he added.