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TRADE AGREEMENTS

Will AfCFTA be a breakthrough helping hand for Africa’s marketers?

By our News Team | 2022

What is the African Continental Free Trade Area and how can it unite marketers and better link consumerism with economic development?

Negotiations spanning at least half a decade led to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement being signed on 21 March 2018. The aim of this historic agreement? To create the largest free-trade area in the world by connecting close to 1.3-billion people in 54 countries across Africa (only Eritrea has neglected to sign the agreement). 

The AfCFTA came into effect on 1 January 2021, making widespread regional collaboration among African marketers a distinct possibility. AfCFTA Secretary General, Wamkele Mene, has repeatedly pointed out that the agreement can provide just the post-pandemic stimulus needed to boost African economies – but it may be some time before this becomes a reality.

Agreements

Successful implementation of AfCFTA will generate much-needed supply-chain efficiencies. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

“We’re not going to get another opportunity to integrate; this is our last opportunity,” Mene stated at African press conferences and global trade events. “There is not a single African country that can work alone to trade its way out of poverty.”

According to Dr John Mapulanga, a member of the Zambia Institute of Marketing, the AfCFTA could provide a uniquely African solution to an African problem.  

“How do we explain the fact that our continent, which is endowed with natural resources, has no capacity to process those resources for value addition, preferring to export raw materials whose value is then determined by world markets?” he enquires. “And how is it that our continent, which is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources, leads all the others in terms of its poverty index?” 

Change the narrative for Africa

Luté Lungu Mwelo, Registrar and CEO at the Zambia Institute of Marketing, agrees with Mapulanga that a free trade area could change the narrative for Africa. 

Other areas in the world have formed synergies between regional countries, and the exchange of knowledge and information has been critical. But we need to get to a point where each African country appreciates its resources and knows what it is bringing to the table,” she points out.

Despite a slow start, in which Nigerian authorities expressed concern about how free trade may ease the way for smugglers, Sidney Ogodo, Registrar at the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, says the consensus in his country is that “AfCFTA is the next best thing that will happen to the economy of Africa”. 

He cites the fact that having access to a captive market of over a billion consumers will change the game for the continent. 

“Yes, the AU must ensure all perceived bottlenecks of a unified custom tariff are resolved, but when that happens you will have a more or less level playing field,” he argues. “This will breed innovation and drive value to consumers.”

To read more of this article, go to page 8 of the latest issue (Issue 1 2022) of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the magazine of the African Confederation. You can access the Digital Edition here.

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