Windhoek - The African Union and the Southern African Development Community have reiterated their commitment to building an industrialised and integrated continent.
Starting in 2020, July 7 has been set aside to celebrate the African integration agenda and the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
AfCFTA brings together all 55 AU member states, creating a market of more than 1,2 billion people with a combined GDP of over US$3,4 trillion.
The bloc is moving progressively towards a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people. Intra-Africa trade will be expanded through harmonisation and co-ordination of trade policies, starting at regional economic community level and building upwards to the entire continent.
Intra-Africa trade continues to trail the levels experienced in other regions of the world at 15 percent, compared to 68 percent in Europe, 37 percent in North America, and 20 percent in Latin America.
Under AfCFTA, intra-Africa trade is projected to rise to 52 percent by 2040, while combined consumer and business spending should reach US$6,7 trillion by 2030 on the back of increased manufacturing and industrialisation.
In a joint statement, AU Chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, AfCFTA Champion President Issoufou Mahamdou of Niger, and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said July 7 offered the continent an opportunity to reflect on progress and celebrate the achievements made in integrating Africa.
“In so doing, we also assess the progress made so far in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, with its vision of establishing the Africa we want, through the realisation of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, led by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force on the international scene,” the statement reads.
To date, 54 countries have signed the AfCFTA agreement and 28 have deposited instruments of ratification with the AU Commission.
“Africans from all walks of life should be very proud of this unprecedented achievement, which makes Africa the land of opportunities and promises,” the joint statement says.
In a separate statement, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax said AfCFTA would address the fragmentation of Africa’s trading systems.
As one of the eight pillars of the AU, Dr Tax said SADC had made tremendous progress in its integration agenda.
The region achieved free trade area status in 2008, which has seen intra-regional trade grow to about 22 percent of total trade. Further, the share of the region’s trade with the rest of Africa stood at 22 percent in 2019.
Recognising the challenges associated with multiple membership of economic groups, the bloc became part of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) officially launched in June 2015.
The TFTA brings together 26 countries, creating a market of more than 700 million people and a combined GDP of over US$1,4 trillion.
“As we commemorate the African Integration Day, and the establishment of the AfCFTA, we should not lose sight of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, which is a one of the major building blocks towards the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Dr Tax said.