Founder and executive director of the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) Nigest Haile stresses the importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) to Ethiopia’s economic prospects. She cites the current status of trade between African countries accounting for less than 20 percent of the net trade that the continent engages in as an abysmal figure that need to be focused on through the concerted effort of member states.
The numbers certainly seem to agree with this assessment, especially concerning Ethiopia. According to the Trade Law Center, Ethiopia’s exports to other African nations accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s total exports. Given these figures and one of the primary goals of the AfCFTA being the liberalization of tariffs, the nation is certainly set to be a beneficiary of extended cooperation.
One of the main reasons Nigest Haile has focused on the AfCFTA, however, is not the specifics of the agreement but the alternative it provides to trade with developed nations, which she claims is complex and cumbersome compared to the simplicity of intra-African trade.
The African Union seems to also be in agreement with Mrs. Haile’s assessment. The organization has affirmed the need to address non-tariff barriers in African trade if the full vision of the AfCFTA is to be realized. Some of these barriers identified by the organization include quotas, stringent packaging requirements, customs operations, and many more.
In a statement on the issue, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga, has noted that the extensive and varied nature of non-tariff barriers requires boldness, transparency, and cooperation if the continent is to have a chance of working through them and realizing its potential for economic growth and development.