Regional economic integration vital

09 July 2019 | Africa

President Hage Geingob said the creation of a continent-wide free-trade area is an initiative the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aligns itself with. He made the comments in Niamey, Niger at an African Union meeting.

“The Southern African Development Community fully aligns itself with the continental integration agenda as espoused in the 1991 Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, whose objective, among others, is to promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to realise the African Economic Community,” said Geingob.

According to him, the treaty further recognises that Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are the building blocks. “By making RECs the building blocks of the continental community, the union subscribes to the principle of subsidiarity that governs the division of powers and responsibilities between the African Union and RECs,” he said.

“I am confident that we will learn from each other, and be able to chart our way forward in positioning ourselves to meet the continental agenda,” he told those in attendance.

“We need to effectively bring on board the private sector as a critical partner to regional integration,” he added.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) aims to unite 1.3 billion people, creating a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc that could usher in a new era of development.

The members meeting at an African Union summit in Niamey agreed on mechanisms that will underpin the accord, including determining the rules of origin, a digital payment system, an online tool for listing products and tariffs, and a monitoring system to deal with non-trade barriers.

The African Free Trade Agreement commits the governments to greater economic integration, as the signatory states begin a multi-year process to remove trade barriers including tariffs on 90% of commodities. The duty-free movement of goods is expected to boost regional trade, while also helping countries move away from mainly exporting raw materials and build manufacturing capacity to attract foreign investment.

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