African Economic Integration through the AfCFTA
Regional integration makes sense in and for Africa. Most African nations are developing countries with small domestic markets. Many are land locked. Growth through economic integration has been on the African agenda for decades but the expected results have not always materialised. Only about 16% of the goods produced in Africa are destined for African markets. Will this picture change under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)?
The AfCFTA has been launched with the expectation that it will boost intra-African trade and industrialisation. For this to happen there needs to be better trade governance and large-scale investments in infrastructural development and regional value chains. African Governments, the AfCFTA Secretariat and several development supporting agencies have announced ambitious plans to make this possible. This paper discusses a related aspect; the AfCFTA’s economic integration strategy in terms of which these initiatives must unfold.
Economic integration occurs when countries conclude treaties offering preferential access to each other’s markets. These arrangements are anchored in legal instruments which provide for trade related obligations to be implemented and for procedures to be followed by the member states. As integration deepens, further adjustments need to be made. The necessary institutions, additional obligations and governance measures must be added. Adherence to community law may follow.
With the arrival of the AfCFTA economic integration in Africa is potentially on a new track. This paper discusses the legal and institutional implications of this process and the consequences for the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Those of them that have formed FTAs are also the building blocks of the AfCFTA. African integration is often inspired by ambitions to foster solidarity and establish continent-wide political structures. This generates a different momentum. The achievement of long-term political unity will not be discussed.
Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.