The CFTA: Moving African integration further forward: The CFTA is a monumental step for Africa, says the CEO of the AU's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Author:Mayaki, Ibrahim Assane

Twenty years ago, I hoped for an Africa that would draw closer and forge forward boldly, despite a bag of mixed fortunes. Rwanda had just been blighted by genocide and the ubiquitous coup d'etat still reared its ugly head in West Africa. Although a tentative calm prevailed in Central Africa, political tensions simmered below the surface. The Democratic Republic of Congo was in the throes of the First Congo War. The civil war in Somalia was growing in magnitude and intensity. Ethiopia was beginning an experiment in state-led macroeconomic planning. A democratic South Africa was rising from the ashes of apartheid, a veritable validation of the O AU's ultimate goal of political liberation for Africa.

An interim period of positive change ensued, a growth fuelled by new media including the internet, greater multiculturalism and a stronger attachment to democratic principles.

In March 2018, 44 African Union (AU) heads of state and government enacted the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (CFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda at the AU's 10th Extraordinary Session, under the able leadership of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda as current AU chairperson and Moussa Faki Mahamat as chairperson of the AU Commission. Once in force the CFTA will be the largest trade zone in the world, increase intra-African trade by 52% by the year 2022, remove tariffs on 90% of goods, liberalise services and tackle other barriers to intra-African trade, such as long delays at border posts.

The end of colonialism in the early 1960s created 55 African countries that cut arbitrarily across ethnic, cultural and traditional boundaries. They established the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to promote unity and solidarity on one hand yet emphasised territorial sovereignty on the other. This hamstrung the OAU insofar as national affairs were concerned, and helped create regional economic blocs or communities (RECs) in the mid-1970s.

RECs engendered political and economic integration. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (EAC) signed agreements for the free movement of goods, services and people. There are now eight AU-recognised RECs and a number of sub-regional bodies that are actively pursuing Africa's integration agenda.

In 1991 the Abuja Treaty established the African Economic Community (AEC), building on RECs for integration. At the 2001 OAU Summit, African heads of state and...

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