It was a historic occasion. One year ago, the African Union held an Extraordinary Summit in which the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) was concluded.
With Gambia’s recent ratification of the agreement, the threshold for it to come into effect across the continent has been met and the agreement will be in force in 30 days. Gambia’s decision has brought to life the most important free trade agreement since the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The trade agreement pools one billion people together and up to US$ 3 trillion of cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That this agreement is important was evident at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda last month, where hundreds of African Heads of State, government officials, top corporate executives and investors met.
There was agreement at the forum that such an agreement is needed to unlock the potential of the existing continental treaties for business and economic growth. With Africa struggling to return to sustained growth, and foreign direct investment flagging, the ideal of a common market offers the private sector a unique opportunity.
Whichever way you look at it, business must now weigh in on the ongoing discussions in order to determine the real priorities for economic integration and achieve much-needed changes.