For decades Africa has been dependent on external support for development and growth. However Africa is finally arising and taking steps to secure a prosperous future for her people and Continent. In the past year there have been exciting shifts in the areas of trade and free movement of African people.
Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. – Bondei proverb
In March African leaders signed the African Continental Free Trade: the largest free trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation. African countries’ prosperity cannot be fully realized unless it is part of the regional and continental strategic partnership.
The goal is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspersons and investments. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over USD$ 6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending – that’s if all African countries have joined the free trade area by then. The agreement signed by 44 of the 55 African Union Members States will come into force when ratified by at least 22 countries.
Our peoples, our business community and our youth in particular cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic takeoff and perpetuate misery, even though Africa is abundantly endowed with wealth. – Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson African Union Commission
The benefits from the African Continental Free Trade :
- Intra African trade could increase by about 52% by 2022;
- Increased market access ;
- Could lead to (accompanied by relevant policies) lower tariffs, simplified rules of origin and customs procedures, regulations for trade in services that will benefit entrepreneurs, large, small & micro businesses;
- Diversified industrial sector;
- Stronger manufacturing sectors through the creation of economies of scale from market access coupled with relevant industrial policies;
- A fortified manufacturing sector will cause better paying jobs, especially for young people;
Free movement of people
In March 2018 the African Union (AU) adopted the Free Movement Protocol (Draft Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment) and an accompanying draft plan of action (Draft Implementation Roadmap). The free movement of persons is a critical key in unlocking growth and economic development on the continent.
The free movement of people will directly affect the ordinary citizens. Usually the African Union protocols and treaties indirectly affects, this will be the hardest impact felt by Africans.
The benefits of free movements:
- Trade: According to the African Development Bank report that African travel to Rwanda has increased by 15% since Rwanda abolished visas for Africans. Further Rwandan cross border trade with Kenya and Uganda has increased by 50%.
- Increased revenue: Seychelles experienced a 7% boost in tourism between 2009-2014 after they abandoned visas for African nationals.
- Investment: increased free movements of people, goods and services will attract investment to transport infrastructure.
Numerous African states have relaxed or removed visa restrictions for African citizens.
Visa free countries for Africans:
Benin, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda and Seychelles have all adopted visa-free policies to make travel easier between African countries.
Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo – announced visa-free movement for citizens among their nations under the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).
Kenya and Botswana offers visas on arrival for African nationals.
The challenges of security threats and xenophobia must be addressed. The Protocol does not offer unfettered movement but rather stricter security controls of ports of entry. Further it is an opportunity to increase cross-border police cooperation and improving intelligence sharing through the AU’s Special Technical Committee on Defence and Security. It is up to Member States and also the AU to combat the culture of xenophobia.
Although it is still in the early stages, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement has the potential to shift and thrust Africa into prosperity. The Free Movement Protocol will increase revenue and make life easier for African holidaymakers and business people. Africa is finally taking steps to deepen economic integration, embolden her markets and unlock her potential. Vuka Africa!