New Edition... Maat States that AfCFTA Agreement Deepens the Economic Integration of African Countries
Okeil: We recommend African countries to strengthen plans aimed at increasing the private sector’s contribution to development, employment and intra-regional trade
Gharib: Compensation fund for the AfCFTA should be established, to ensure fair distribution of benefits derived from the Agreement
On the sidelines of the 77th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights released a comprehensive study titled "AfCFTA Agreement... Gains & Challenges." This study aligns with regional efforts to accelerate the Continental Trade Agreement and follows numerous calls from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to strengthen the work of the Agreement. It also resonates with the African Union's theme for this year, which focuses on accelerating the African Trade Agreement.
The study conducted by Maat examines the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), highlighting its relationship to African integration. With 54 signatory countries, it stands as the largest free trade area in terms of member states, population, and geographical size. Encompassing over 1.3 billion people across the African continent, it ranks second only to the World Trade Organization. The study emphasizes the positive impact of the AfCFTA Agreement, including increased opportunities for industrial exports, enhanced continental trade exchange, poverty reduction, improved economic conditions, conflict resolution, and creation of new job prospects. However, it also highlights the challenges facing the activation of the AfCFTA Agreement.
The study specifically highlights Egyptian efforts in activating the Agreement, as Egypt was among the first countries to sign, ratify, and begin working within it. Ayman Okeil, a human rights expert and Chairman of Maat, explains that the African continent's evolving economic, security, and development realities present significant challenges to the activation of the AfCFTA Agreement. These challenges range from disparities in size, economic growth, and income inequality to conflicts, inadequate infrastructure, and slow technology adoption in certain countries. Okeil emphasizes the need for balanced domestic legal and political frameworks that align with the commitments of the AfCFTA, recognizing the role of governments in implementing the Agreement at the national level.
Furthermore, Okeil recommends that multilateral financing institutions reassess their criteria and conditions for qualifying countries, including those in Africa, to obtain soft loans. This adjustment aims to make these loans accessible to low- and middle-income countries in light of the increasing burden of debt service.
He also calls on African governments to promote plans that increase the private sector's contribution to sustainable development, employment, and intra-regional trade.
Sayed Gharib, a researcher in the Sustainable Development Unit at Maat, recommended activating appropriate social dialogue within the operations of the AfCFTA. This dialogue should encompass topics such as youth employment, gender equality, decent jobs, sustainability, and democratic participation. Additionally, Gharib suggests the establishment of a compensation fund for the AfCFTA, ensuring fair distribution of benefits derived from the Agreement and providing short-term financial support. Overall, Maat's study provides valuable insights into the AfCFTA Agreement, its potential gains, and the challenges it faces. It underscores the importance of concerted efforts to overcome obstacles and maximize the benefits of regional integration for sustainable development and economic prosperity across the African continent.