Editor’s Note: February 04, 2019
Is Africa finally ready to integrate?
Ethiopia’s cabinet on Saturday approved the country’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), becoming the 18th country to ratify the plan.
Launched by the African Union in March 2018 it’s hoped that the deal will make meaningful inroads into Africa’s long-standing regional integration problem. At around 15% regional trade remains the lowest globally, a major bottleneck to trade and investment.
The estimate is that the AfCFTA could boost regional trade by 52% by 2022, and needs four more ratifications to come into force.
The AU hopes to hit this target in February, but it might not mean much.
The initiative needs to overcome a legacy of poor implementation. Plans like 1999’sYamoussoukro Decision – aimed at liberalising Africa’s airspace – have had virtually no impact.
There are also worrying omissions.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has not signed up amid domestic opposition to the idea. No North African country has ratified the AfCFTA, highlighting the complexity of aligning the interests of 54 diverse countries.
It’s not all bad news.
The recent opening of a bridge linking Gambia and Senegal after decades of failed efforts, and plans to do the same between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, suggest that political will around integration may be strengthening.
Let’s hope so.
From The Continent
A group of Egyptian lawmakers has submitted a petition proposing to extend presidential term limits from 4 to 6 years. Incumbent Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has faced criticism for cracking down on dissent and opposition parties since taking office in a popular coup in 2014, is in his second and final term due to end in 2022. More: Bloomberg
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The Daily Stat
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The Global Perspective
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A diplomatic row has broken out between South Africa and UK, Germany, the Netherland, Switzerland and the US, after they reportedly sent president Cyril Ramaphosa a joint memorandum warning about policy uncertainty and risks to foreign investment from corruption. This comes amid waning confidence in Ramaphosa’s pledge to turn around the economy after the scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma years. More: Independent Online