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Africa Day speech by Donald Kaberuka

There is a time for everything: the african continental free trade area.

On May 24, 2018, the Wilson Center Africa Program hosted a discussion on “Moving Forward with the Implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area – Opportunities and Challenges.”

Dr. Donald Kaberuka added further detail to the importance of the CFTA and the benefits that could accrue from the agreement. He also highlighted potential concerns and obstacles to implementation and the ways forward for overcoming the obstacles and maximizing the benefits of the agreement. He noted that the CFTA was probably the most historic decision that Africa has made since independence. Utilizing lessons from other continents, namely Europe and the founding of the European Union, Dr. Kaberuka argued that the significance of the CFTA does not only lie in promoting trade, but also in advancing security, safety, and prosperity. While acknowledging concerns by some countries regarding dumping, rules origin, and potential loss of jobs, he noted that many of these concerns are addressed directly in the agreement.  For example, the CFTA is 90 percent free trade and not total liberalization, which allows for protection for some infant and sensitive industries. When implemented, the CFTA could help the continent move away from its dependence on commodity exports and towards developing human capital and industrialization. While some sub-regions in Africa are still lagging behind in terms of trade, the Southern African Development Community and East African Community show higher levels of intra-regional trade; the CFTA will help build on and expand current successes of regional cooperation and integration. Notably, the agreement will not only benefit countries that rely on trade in physical goods; half of the benefits of the CFTA will accrue from trade in services. Other key benefits of the agreement will come from reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, including burdensome and inefficient customs processes, insufficient infrastructure, excessive paperwork, and security checks. Dr. Kaberuka argued that the CFTA is a significant step in larger African efforts to create jobs, promote development, and capitalize on the demographic dividend by creating jobs and a larger economic space for youth.

Speech document

Webcast recap

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