How the US can help Africa fulfill the promise of the CFTA.

Author:Moore, Gyude
Position:Perspective - African Continental Free Trade Area

Africa has been low on the list of US foreign policy priorities, but its new Prosper Africa policy seeks to accelerate two-way investment and trade. Gyude Moore reflects on what the US can do to help Africa deliver prosperity for its citizens

At the time of writing, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was set to provide the details of the new US-Africa policy, Prosper Africa, on the sidelines of the US-Africa Business Council 2019. This new initiative seeks to accelerate two-way investment and trade with Africa as a way to advance the US's competitive advantage. In the following article, I detail my thoughts on what the policy needs to include in order to fulfil the promise of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

The place and timing of this announcement, on June 19-21 in Maputo, Mozambique, could not be more propitious. In March this year, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, levelling a city of 400,000 and--along with Cyclone Kenneth--leaving in its wake $3.2bn worth of destruction. This was a foreshadowing of Africa's acute vulnerability to the increasing intensity of extreme weather events and limited ability to adapt. Climate change compounds existing challenges of state fragility, infrastructure deficit, and high unemployment.

Meanwhile, the CFTA went into force on 30 May. It carries the continent's hopes and ambitions for connectivity, industrial development, job creation, and improved quality of life. The CFTA will be of mutual benefit to both the US and Africa. It will open new markets for American goods and services. When Ross takes the stage in Maputo, his speech will be the first substantive response by a major development partner to the latest vehicle on which Africans have pinned their hopes.

This mix of challenge and promise forces Africa to pursue a variety of partnerships, since every partner deploys unique competences. For the CFTA to be successful, the US must restrain its inclination to make Africa a theatre of great power conflict with China. Both China and the US are indispensable partners in pursuit of the CFTA's goals. American or Chinese Africa policies that are contingent on Africans choosing one partner over the other will consistently yield sub-optimal outcomes for all parties.

Africa's position on the continuum of US foreign policy priorities could use improvement, and Prosper Africa presents a chance to do that. Every budget submission from the Trump administration has proposed deep cuts to...

To continue reading