With the COVID-19 pandemic creating a global crisis, cross-border trade legal observers have said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) deal, offers Nigeria and other countries the to strengthen and re-configure intra-African supply chains, enhance resilience, improve infrastructure and health systems while reducing reliance on non-African trading partners.
Centurion Law Group, a pan-African corporate law conglomerate, with a specialized focus on cross-border business and energy law, noted that Africa should use this opportunity to expedite the establishment of regional value chains that will boost intra-Africa trade as well as accelerate negotiations on important sectors such as e-commerce, competition, intellectual property, and investment.
According to the Group, Africa’s high dependence on non-African trading partners for ‘essential products’ during the pandemic has revealed the critical need for the continent to diversify its economies and strengthen the strategic sectors such as healthcare and agriculture.
“Two-thirds of African States remain indeed net importers of food and medicine. The global trade restrictions, disruption of the international supply chains, and cross-border blockages caused by the pandemic have created shortages and an increase in the cost of essential products. Had the AFCFTA already been fully functional, the African States would have been less reliant on international supplies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on all African economies. According to the World Bank biannual Africa’s Pulse report, due to the pandemic, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4% in 2019 to between -2.1% and -5.1% in 2020, wherein the region will experience its first recession in 25 years.
“Whilst Africa has been excited and geared up for the July 2020 start of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), the much-awaited kick off has had to be postponed to January 2021. This is because the main priority for most African States at the moment is to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives.
“Additionally, negotiations on pending matters such as rules of origin, tariff reductions and services schedules have slowed down as negotiating teams are unable to travel due to the closure of borders and lock down restrictions,” the Group added.