Let Africa trade with Africa

Let Africa trade with Africa

The idea of a free market system in Africa may be possible if our ideologies change. Intra Africa trade benefits far outweigh the current model of dispersed economies which are hostile to business.
As a continent, Africa is very divided. Our goals, visions and languages are diverse and oppose the ideals of Pan-Africanism. Evidence of this can be found in the underlying tribalism messages disguised as humour on social media platforms which have gone viral or the extremely violent xenophobic behavior in South Africa that has dispossessed many foreign nationals of their belongings.

These instances are a representation of our taught inability to think broadly in terms of being stronger as a collective. It also demonstrates fear of unchartered territory and loss of control.
Passports and borders have become an integral part of our identity, and any reasoning contrary to this ideology threatens our foundations.

Yet we are holding on to our beliefs while we continue to be embattled with economic stagnation. Our solutions have been presented to us and can be found by changing policy.
Nationalism has huge disadvantages for business and requires a shift in mindset from our leaders and policy makers who often overlook economic benefits for pride. The African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has the potential to enhance trade and investment opportunities and foster structural transformation.

Agreements such as the AGOA have not enabled Africa to significantly trade globally and spearhead much needed economic growth with the continent contributing only about 3 percentage in global trade.
The AfCFTA will enable the circulation of huge amounts of money within the continent and support economic activity. With the intra trade movement of 55 countries with a population of approximately 1 billion people, the combined GDP of USD3.4 trillion is a foolproof way to increase economic growth and alleviate poverty.

However, the vision of an integrated and peaceful Africa which is driven by its citizens will not come easy. The fear of ceding control, power and sovereignty are hindrances to the immediate ratification of the agreement.
Resources gained from tariffs are also at stake with the reduction in fiscal revenue. But most notably, egos will have to be neutralized as stronger economies will have to meet weaker ones halfway.
Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the challenges and many obstacles will have to be overlooked for the success of this agreement.

Leaders have to truly ask themselves whether trading with countries from other continents such as China is yielding any long-term, structural benefits or whether opening up our borders to intra Africa trade has a more widespread effect which can benefit small traders in informal economies and uplift local economies.
As the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta once said, “there cannot be a good reason why it is easier for us to trade with Asia, Europe and the Americas, rather than with fellow Africans.”

Our obsession with borders and nationalism is also a catalyst for conflict and generations of war.
The ability of the Ethiopian President, Abiy Ahmed to spearhead efforts for peace by resolving the Eritrea border conflict is a true example of the benefits of good leadership and putting countries first before egos.

Similarly, in order for the AfCFTA to succeed, greed and kickbacks will have to be relinquished for the benefit of the greater majority. Let us hope that President Ahmed is an indication of the potential that fresh, young African leaders have in bringing real change to the people.
At the very least, I am sure that we can all agree that as a country, we are desperate for young minds.

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