The Gambia recently joined as the 22nd-member nation to internally ratified the agreement constituted half that number needed to move the agreement forward out of the 44 African nations.
In a conversation with British-Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim over the weekend, Africa's richest man and foremost industrialist, Aliko Dangote raised some vital issues about the free trade agreement ahead of the ratification.
Dangote said African government needs to work on regional trade to promote economic ties and development before swinging fully into the continental trade agreement. The Billionaire explained that there is no free movement within regional markets citing the case of the Benin Republic which Africa does not allow his Cement product but rather import from China.
Here are critical areas Aliko Dangote mentioned during his interview:
1. African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA)
Aliko Dangote lamented on how the AfCTA will be implemented. He said the key issue is not about the signatories but implementation by African governments. “My issues is when we signed, what about implementation - which is key and missing. “I think the CFTA will help but we need to make regional markets work very well.”
2. Strict border movement within African nations
Aliko Dangote said there is a need for more collaboration from other African nations in areas on economic integration and open border.
“This is one of the areas that I always keep discussing with my good friend Vera (Vera Songwe Executive Secretary – Economic Commission on Africa (ECA), focused on the AfCTA).
“I'm sure she's somewhat and I always tell Vera.. you know please can you make the regional market in Africa to work before we go to AfCTA,” he said.
3. African Union passport
Another issue is the African passport. The passport is not working. The African Union passport is a document set to replace existing nationally-issued passports and exempt bearers from having to obtain any visas for all 55 states in Africa.
He cited an example of how Angola stamped an AU passport because he was allowed free entrance into the country. “The ugly situation was when I was invited by the President of Angola and …. when I went there, I was issued visa on African Union passport.”
“I had to apply for visa, and intentionally, when I applied for the visa, I also applied on the African Union passport and I gave them that too to stamp on it.”
He said if African countries can grant British, America and European citizens visa on arrival why can't they grant free entrance to African citizens.
Africa’s biggest trade agreement - AfCFTA
AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation. The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.
The continent’s oil biggest producer, Nigeria and Angola are yet to sign ahead of May kick-off date of the economic ties.
The AfCFTA will commence May 2019 as leaders across the continent said they have received enough signatories to forge ahead with the trade pact.
Implementation is the key word - AfCFTA may suffer same as AU Passport
Ridwan Sorunke, a Public Affairs analyst told Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa on Monday that without political will, the AfCTA may suffer a similar fate to the AU passport.
“African Union must continue to engage governments across Africa to ensure that majority buy-ins. Most importantly, they need to communicate the benefits of these initiatives to the stakeholders. Currently less than 20%, it is important that Africa integrate on trade to make nations more viable as well as create a larger market.”
Sorunke said regional trade is very essential for economic prosperity in Africa. Buying Aliko Dangote's sentiment, he said regional agreements such as the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) which have gone a long way in aiding integration but they are not enough.
“Implementation - through sustained political will - is very important. African governments must recognise that open borders will bring about better economic outcomes through increased investment, lower prices for consumers, and more jobs along the value chain.'