Embrace tenets of African Free Trade Area, Charumbira urges member states
George Maponga in Midranda, South Africa
African member states have been exhorted to urgently embrace the tenets of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with Pan African Parliament (PAP) President Chief Fortune Charumbira saying its rollout will extricate close to 50 million people out of extreme poverty across arguably the world’s least developed continent.
Chief Charumbira rallied African countries to remove hurdles stopping the quick implementation of free trade across the continent today at the start of a two-day workshop on the AfCFTA held on the sidelines of the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of PAP’s 6th Parliament in Midrand, South Africa.
The workshop is aimed at discussing the African Free Trade Area and also define the role of the PAP in the effective implementation the free trade agreement.
In his address to MPs at the start of the workshop, the PAP president said the AfCFTA will increase Africa’s exports to the outside world as well as ramping up intra-Africa trade by more than 100 percent.
He lamented that while the issue of rolling out a free trade area across Africa has been top of the agenda since the inception of majority rule across Africa, there has been limited tangible progress on the ground hence the move by PAP to add impetus to realisation of that goal.
Chief Charumbira noted that only ”the terminology” had changed in the desire to engender an African free trade area saying it appeared ”something was not working well” hence delays in rolling out that epochal development that will stimulate socio-economic development across the continent.
“If we implement this (AfCFTA),close to 50 million people will escape extreme poverty on the continent. Africa’s exports to the world would grow, and intra-Africa trade will expand by more than 100 percent. We knew since we got independence that we needed to trade amongst ourselves but we were not doing that and that is the reason why this workshop has two days while others are only lasting for an hour. We need to see what has been blocking us from getting there,” said Chief Charumbira.
President Charumbira threw down the gauntlet at PAP parliamentarians to contribute towards realisation of the AfCFTA dream which engender
seismic socio-economic development across Africa.
”As parliamentarians, we have been told that AfCFTA will bring prosperity to Africa. So our duty now is to establish the bottlenecks and impediments towards achieving the Africa we want and then address them because this is the solution to our economic problems.”
Resolution of most problems plaguing Africa today among them, unemployment, energy crisis, fertiliser shortages in agriculture, will be relegated to the periphery once the AfCFTA sees the light of the day.
He said one of the major impediments to socio-economic development across the continent was that Africans citizens were not proud of
themselves a practice he said must change.
In his address at the same gathering, president of the Africa Business Council Dr Amany Asfour said if Africa wants to achieve the AFCFTA, there was need for private sector involvement.
“If we want to realise the African dream, the Africa we want, a prosperous, integrated, physically integrated Africa, we need the private sector to play a role. Are we going to be able to trade amongst ourselves one day when have been used to importing goods from China, Dubai amd other states? We need to empower our women, youths.”
She said African governments were supposed to legislate procurement of goods and services and make sure that they allocate a certain percentage to African companies.
“One of our advocacy pillars is about having 40 percent of government procurement goes to African private sector, this is how we can empower the African private sector by this policy because its not possible to have what is found on the African soil outside Africa, that is why we need at least 40 percent,” she said.
Dr Asfour added that there was need for investment in the health sector, among other investment opportunities, which Africa can explore to make sure that it is fully industrialised and help realise the African dream.
“AfCFTA without industrialisation and investment will remain a dream but you your excellencies(MPs) present wield the power to make it happen. We as the private sector need your guidance. For instance in the health sector, according to WHO, 80 percent of African people are dying from cancer as compared to 24 percent in the West because we are not investing in health,” she said.
”Our people are going to India and other parts of the world to seek medical treatment and all that could end if we have a public-private sector engagement and deliberate on the matter,” she said.
In his presentation at the same workshop, Mr Mohamed Ali who was representing the AfCFTA, said as an organisation they were happy and relying on PAP support to help push forward the implementation of a continental free trade area that will positively change the socio-economic configuration of the African continent.