Collaboration will be crucial in driving the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement

Source: Collaboration will be crucial in driving the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement

South Africa: On 1 January 2021 trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) started. The AfCFTA, with its 35 signatories, is an instrument that legitimises the creation of a single continental market for goods and services. The free movement of business, people, and investments lays the foundation for an integrated, prosperous, and inclusive Africa.

REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

One of the expected outcomes of the implementation of the agreement is to boost intra-African trade. Currently, intra-African trade accounts for between 10-16%. It is expected that the agreement will accelerate growth and sustainable development through doubling the overall intra-African trade by 2022 and tripling trade in agricultural goods by 2023. However, we are still far from meeting these targets and more needs to be done, according to the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL).

From 14 – 16 August 2022, the UNISA SBL in collaboration with the Journal of Public Administration (JoPA) will host the 1st International Engaged Scholarship Conference to engage on practical solutions to fast-track industrial development and regional integration. Themed Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – Leading Change in the Public and Private Sectors, the conference is a platform for public and private stakeholders to contribute their intellectual prowess towards creating collaborative opportunities across sectors and between urban and rural businesses; local, national and regional enterprises, to create sustainable economies. The Conference seeks to also identify ways to tackle issues around developmental integration and growth in the context of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“We want all stakeholders to collaboratively contribute solutions to improve the current trajectory in the continent’s trade targets. Policymakers, revolutionary academics, agents of change, and indigenous knowledge-holders need to contribute towards creating collaborative opportunities. The public and private sectors, urban and rural businesses, local, national and regional enterprises need to come up with solutions on how we can intentionally drive intra-Africa trade to create sustainable economies,” says Professor Nhlanhla Mlitwa, Director of Digital & Innovation and the Chairperson of the Research portfolio at the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL).

Today’s world is an interdependent trade ecosystem. The signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area in 2018 underpins the commitment of African leaders to operationalise the interdependence of economies in the African region.

Professor Mlitwa says, “Collaboration will be crucial in driving the success of AfCTA and ensuring that it benefits the continent in growing its economies. The engagement of academia, policymakers, the public and private sector stakeholders and communities will enable the success of the AfCFTA.”

He notes that trade interdependences pose challenges for policymakers and opportunities for local and cross-border traders. Challenges abound when economic policies do not create an enabling environment for local and international trade to be optimised.

“Forward-looking trade policy frameworks are crucial in international trade, but these are not enough to transform and align African economies with the needs of the current digital industrial revolution. Without a special kind of policymaking acumen and leadership sensibilities that unlock capabilities to navigate the global business environment nimbly, the policy environment will still not yield inclusive growth,” says Professor Mlitwa.

“If the continent is to meet the targets of the intra-Africa trade all stakeholders must come together to determine a more practical way to drive trade across borders. There is an urgency needed in driving these efforts – more so as African economies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he concludes.