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It is more than ever necessary to encourage and promote trade between African countries; especially now that globalization has made the world a global village. And in this millennium, where there is so much progress in knowledge, information, science and technology. Moreover, most of the continents of the world are trying so hard to improve and increase the commercial transactions between their countries in order to obtain foreign currencies. For example, European Union (EU), Asia-Pacific, South America, North America, etc., especially the EU which tries its best to increase trade among member countries as well as with the rest of the world.
As things stand, Europe is the most integrated continent in the world and this system and process of integration has been made possible by deliberate policy and action over time – in terms of communication and transportation; whether by air, sea, land, rail, etc. Facilitating travel and doing business afterwards on the continent and between member countries is very convenient. Also, the various borders of the different European countries do not make it cumbersome and difficult for travelers or visitors whether they are on a business trip or for leisure as tourists. By removing all congestion and bottlenecks like unnecessary checkpoints on the way or causing delays and making unwanted demands of travelers and visitors access to markets, trade fairs, tours and exhibitions .
Africans must integrate, encourage free trade and the free movement of people and goods on the continent between member countries. African nations must export to other member countries and import from member countries. What is generally the case is that African countries export and import from Europe, America or Asia to the detriment of other African countries. This should not be the case as some African countries produce agricultural products and Africa as a whole is highly dependent on imported food. Africa has the propensity and the capacity to produce and export semi-finished products such as African textiles-fabrics, leather goods of all kinds – bags, shoes, belts, wallets; hides and skins, etc., works of art and handicrafts, that and the rest of the world which can earn foreign currency.
This will help promote tourism – leisure and travel – within Africa and between member countries. Thus transforming and improving the gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income of African countries, among many other benefits, which is being done in EU countries, Asia-Pacific.
Be that as it may, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Act as conceptualized and envisioned by the African Union (AU) is commendable and apt to facilitate and promote free trade and free movement of goods and people on the continent, but it can be more effective and impactful if more pragmatic and proactive measures are applied. Encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) to increase local manufacturing capacity.
Solid minerals like diamonds, uranium, gold, crude oil, copper, etc. available in Africa should be improved and improved – the way and means of mining and prospecting as is done in the South American countries of Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, etc; the continent’s tourism potential should also be better developed and strengthened to bring in more foreign exchange for African countries.
Efforts have been made under the aegis of the various sub-regional economic blocks such as the Southern African Development Cooperation Commission (SADCC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Development Commission (EADC). All these sub-regional groups; SADCC for Southern Africa, ECOWAS for West Africa and EADC for East Africa have made concerted efforts at different times in city policies and programs to help improve and to increase trade between countries in its region, such as the ECOWAS Protocol – Free Trade Passport.
The African Union and these sub-regional groupings must contribute to the integration and cohesion of Africa. Although this does not mean that they will lose their individual identity and independence.
The world is interdependent, we all need each other for Europe and the USA to go to China to produce and manufacture most of its products and consumer goods in the name of outsourcing. The fact that India handles the majority of ICT jobs outsourced to it from advanced countries speaks volumes.
Africa with its huge amount of human resources can be competitive and have a stake in this big market of ICT outsourcing to earn foreign exchange and improve the standard of living thereby reducing the poverty of Africans.
Going forward, the AfCFTA will help facilitate and improve African exports when fully implemented, not only to African countries but to Asia, Europe, America and the rest of the world. ; provide Africa with the development it so badly needs in terms of infrastructure, employment, improvement of living standards and conditions, reduction of poverty and hunger, because these rare foreign exchange earnings will bring much change and prosperity to the African continent.
Until now, in the 15th and 16th centuries, many empires and kingdoms on the continent had trade links, exporting and importing goods from the Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, British and other Europeans. Examples are Benin Empire, Songhai Empire, Kanem-Borno Empire, Dahomey and Ashanti Kingdom, Bantu etc.

By: Sampson Ayooso

Ayooso, a public policy analyst, wrote from Port Harcourt.

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