Over the past decades, regional integration in Africa has not involved a purely trade liberalization agenda, but rather been based on a pillar of collective self-reliance or, in current terms, been a step towards a peaceful, prosperous and integrated continent. The African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to be a game changer for development ambitions in Africa. The design of the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area reflects an explicit commitment to create a framework for deeper socioeconomic integration and improved cooperation that enables trade, investment and the mobility of people, to support industrialization and the development of a dynamic services sector. Such achievements could ultimately generate decent jobs and increase revenue and thereby contribute to inclusive growth on the continent. A greater emphasis on deeper intraregional trade, cross-border investments in infrastructure and fostering “made in Africa” trade and industrialization policies is key to the continent’s future prosperity and resilience to global financial, food-related, climatic and pandemic-related shocks. For the African Continental Free Trade Area to be a game changer, countries in Africa need to adopt policies that enhance consistency between trade measures, diversification objectives and inclusivity. Unless this is accomplished, the Free Trade Area may be restricted to a trade liberalization agenda and thereby not fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the people of Africa. If effectively implemented, the African Continental Free Trade Area can help address challenges emanating from the excessive reliance in Africa on the supply of primary commodities and goods embodying limited value added to world markets.
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