January 1, 2021, the launching ceremony of the free trade area of the African continent was held online, marking the official launch of the African Free Trade Area.
Analysts believe that although the construction of the African Free Trade Area faces many challenges, it highlights the determination of African countries to promote economic transformation and is expected to enhance Africa’s development resilience.
Speaking at the launch ceremony on the same day, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, said that the African Free Trade Area created an opportunity for Africa to return to the track of achieving sustainable development goals.
According to the relevant agreement arrangement, starting from January 1, 2021, the members of the African Free Trade Area will phase out tariffs on goods other than the exception products according to the product category and their respective circumstances.
The official website and supporting data monitoring platform of the Free Trade Area have been launched, and the secretariat of the African Free Trade Area in Accra, the capital of Ghana, has also been launched.
On July 7, 2019, the African Free Trade Area was officially announced, but due to the coronavirus epidemic and other reasons, the Continental Free Trade Agreement was not officially implemented on July 1, 2020 as originally planned.
So far, 54 of the 55 members of the African Union have signed the Continental Free Trade Framework Agreement, and 34 members have completed their relevant legal procedures and become full members of the Free Trade Area.
Analysts said that after the official launch of the African Free Trade Zone, the follow-up construction will face many challenges, such as the large gap in the economic development level of the members, the lack of professional talents, insufficient infrastructure, and the impact of the epidemic, political instability and security issues.
Because the African Free Trade Area coexists with African subregional organizations, the degree of integration is not synchronized, and the effectiveness of free trade agreements may also be weakened.
However, experts pointed out that in the long run, the African Free Trade Area is expected to accelerate the promotion of intraregional trade exchanges, create employment opportunities and enhance the attractiveness of the continent’s foreign investment.
According to the report released by the World Bank in July 2020, if the African Free Trade Area is fully implemented, Africa will receive nearly $450 billion in real benefits by 2035. By 2035, the total export volume of Africa will increase by nearly 29%, of which intracontinental exports will increase by more than 81% and exports to non-African countries will increase by 19%.
Amina Mohammed said that the African Free Trade Area is expected to increase trade in industrial products between African countries by 25 to 30 percent, promote Africa’s industrialization process and help African economies achieve a sustainable recovery while responding to the epidemic.
The launch of the African Free Trade Area once again demonstrates the continent’s determination to promote economic transformation and take charge of its own destiny.
The African Union Chairman-in-Office and South African President Ramaphosa recently said publicly that the official launch of the African Free Trade Area is one of the most important milestones in the African integration process and the loudest statement that Africa shows the world that “Africa takes its destiny in its own hands”.
Mene, Secretary-General of the Secretariat of the African Free Trade Area, pointed out that Africa’s foreign trade is overly dependent on commodity exports, and Africa must achieve the fundamental structural transformation of Africa’s economy by actively promoting the construction of the African Free Trade Area.