The Africa Free Trade Agreement an opportunity for Job Creation

On Wednesday 21st March, 2018 African leaders made history for the continent by signing three important instruments in an extra-ordinary summit of the African Union. In an unprecedented grandiose ceremony held at the Kigali Convention Centre, Heads of State and Government signed the establishment of Continental Free Trade Area, the Protocol of the Free Movement of People and the Kigali Declaration. 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is predicted to boost intra-African trade. If successful, it will be the biggest trade agreement since the formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The agreement creates a borderless Africa in terms of trade in goods, services, jobs, investment, free movement of people, intellectual property rights and competitiveness. 

Africa’s industrial exports are expected to benefit most from the CFTA which will facilitate the  diversification of  the continent’s trade and encourage a move away from extractive commodities, such as oil and minerals, which have traditionally accounted for most of Africa’s exports, towards a more balanced and sustainable export base. On the other hand African market is supposed to increase by about 52% by 2022. Better market access will create economies of scale. 

The implementation of CFTA will result into increased productive job opportunities for Africa’s bulging young men and women as a result of  industries and manufacturing expansion of in the continent. 

Launching the event, HE Paul KAGAME; AU Chairperson and President of the Republic of Rwanda, commended all the leaders, past and present, who have contributed to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area.

 “The Continental Free Trade Area is the culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by Heads of State in 1980. That undertaking led directly to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community in 1991. We continue to be guided by the foundational principles and detailed implementation roadmap that were laid down in those instruments. What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs, particularly women and youth.” emphasized HE Paul KAGAME.

It is important to note however that the agreement on its own will not deliver results. Member Governments must put in place policies that drive industrial development, particularly manufacturing. 

A strong manufacturing sector requires capable, healthy, and skilled workers. There is need to adjust education curricula to ensure that skills are adapted to the market with a special focus on young people. Curricula must focus on skills and building capacity for entrepreneurship and self-employment. This should involve business training at an early age and skills upgrading at an advanced one. 

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