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Imminent continental free trade pact Africa’s only path to sustainable development: senior UNECA official

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement should be made to work as it is the continent’s only path to sustainable development, a senior United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) official said on Thursday.

The remarks were made by David Luke, coordinator of the ECA’s African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), during a webinar on effective coverage of the AfCFTA.

“Let’s not underestimate the importance of this AfCFTA initiative,” Luke said, as he emphasised that “there’s no plan B; we have to make the AfCFTA work.”

Luke stressed that “all societies only developed when their productive capacities, productivity and competiveness were expanded, driven by trade, and Africa could not be an exception.”

According to Luke, revenues from trade were in multiples of receipts from sources like investments, remittances, foreign direct investment and foreign aid.

The AfCFTA aims to create the world’s largest free trade area with the potential that brings together more than 1.2 billion people with a GDP of over 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars and usher in a new era of development, according to figures from the UNECA.

The continental free trade pact is said to offer a greater potential to generate a range of benefits through economy of scale, trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment, and poverty reduction.

The AfCFTA entered into force on May 30, 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries as the minimum number required by the treaty.

So far, some 34 African countries have submitted their instruments of AfCFTA ratification to the African Union (AU) Commission, according to figures from the 55-member pan African bloc.

Trading under the AfCFTA is due to commence on January 1, 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be postponed from July 1 this year. 

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