Source: The Conversation, photo credit: The Conversation/Shutterstock
An Africa-wide free-trade agreement is unlikely to face any further delays even if a second wave of coronavirus infections hits the region, according to the deal’s top official.
“If the pandemic continues into 2021, we will develop the necessary public-health protocols to continue and to push on with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” Wamkele Mene said in an interview at the Bloomberg Invest Global virtual conference on Tuesday.
The secretariat will take advice from health officials as it works to implement the deal and revive economic growth on the continent.
While the agreement entered into force legally last year, commerce due to have started on July 1 has been delayed as the pandemic set back negotiations to lay the foundation for trade in goods, including tariff concessions. When fully operational by 2030, it could be the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area, with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.
Mene said that the continent’s rapid and coordinated approach to tackling the virus and introducing lockdown measures, partly due to experience in curbing infectious diseases, stands it in good stead to develop public health measures.
Fifty-four of the 55 nations recognized by the African Union have signed up to join the area, with Eritrea being the exception, while 28 countries have ratified the agreement.