Can Africa speak with one voice on trade matters through the AfCFTA?
There are high expectations about what will happen once the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is fully operational. Some predict that intra-African trade in goods (and some services) will increase dramatically and that investors will flock to the continent. The AfCFTA is expected to bring about a continent-wide preferential trade arrangement comprising fifty-five countries, with 1.3 billion inhabitants and a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion. As of May 2023, forty-seven African countries have already ratified the AfCFTA Agreement, which is in force since 30 May 2019 but not yet implemented. (Certain tariff issues and rules of origin must still be finalised.)
There is also a belief that the AfCFTA will allow Africa to speak with “one voice” about international trade issues. This paper discusses this possibility. Certain questions should be asked: What does it mean to speak with one voice on trade-related matters? Is the AfCFTA designed to articulate a single African trade-focused voice? What will be said? Who will be addressed? Where and how will joint strategies be formulated? We start by asking why a continent of 55 sovereign states needs a single voice on trade issues and whether it would be possible to agree on what will be said on behalf of all the AfCFTA State Parties.
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