Successful Africa free trade agreement about people as well as goods

By our News Team | 2023

SSA was one of the least connected regions in the world, but that seems to be changing – which will benefit AfCFTA’s implementation.

For African marketers, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) represents a potential opportunity to tap into many millions of consumers living across the continent. But the agreement’s aims and ideals still seem far from reality in many instances.

One of the reasons for AfCFTA still being more of an ‘on paper’ strategy than an ‘at customs’ reality may be that authorities from African countries are not sufficiently welcoming to travellers from other African countries. Or is that changing?

Trade Agreements

The AfCFTA aims to ease movement of goods, but better people ‘connectedness’ is important too. Photo credit: Pexels

This is a question posed by Theresa Onaji-Benson, a Nigerian working as a researcher with Centre for African Management & Markets at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg. 

Fortunately, she says, it turns out that African nations are, in general, becoming more open to travellers from elsewhere in Africa and facilitating a greater level of ‘connectedness’.

In an opinion column for the South African-based Financial Mail, Onaji-Benson writes that the spark for the AfCFTA treaty seems to have come from a 2016 publication by the African Development Bank that found that it is easier for North Americans to travel in Africa than it is for Africans to travel in Africa. The treaty came into effect about five years later, in January 2021, when the first batch of goods under the preferential agreement were shipped from Ghana to South Africa.

“Still, by early 2023, the goal of reducing 90% of trade tariffs on goods within five years for developed countries, and 10 years for less-developed ones, seems a long way off,” she says.

Her musings took her to the Visa Africa integration index produced for many years by Professor Adrian Saville, Founding Director at the Centre for African Management & Markets. The index provides detail on exactly where, for example, a Kenyan traveller swiped her credit card at a store in Cape Town.

SSA has been one of least connected regions

The findings of the research, pre-pandemic, were that sub-Saharan Africa was one of the least connected regions in the world, which runs counter to calculations showing a strong link between rising connectedness and improvements in economic and social wellbeing. 

Rwanda has been a case in point. Over five years of analysis it produced the largest gain in connectedness. The corresponding growth of income per person of 7% was not coincidental, Onaji-Benson says.

She adds that there is evidence other African countries are now also improving their connectedness.  

“The latest report from the African Development Bank shows that, despite Covid lockdowns and travel disruptions, 93% of African countries have maintained or improved their score relative to 2021. And two-thirds have adopted more liberal visa policies compared with six years ago.

“There are even examples of countries that ask for nothing more than a valid Africa-based passport to gain entry: Benin, The Gambia and Seychelles. For travellers accustomed to the ease of electronic visas, there is more good news: nearly half of African countries now offer an e-visa.”

Says Onaji-Benson: “Wearing my optimistic hat, this feels like a living example of that oft-quoted African proverb, ‘We are going far, together’.”

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    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
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    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

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