Africa Economic Outlook - AfCFTA - Session 2
On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted the second session of its annual Africa’s Economic Outlook series. The webinar series features experts who present Africa’s 2021 economic outlook with a focus on key trade, investment, and business trends and challenges as countries implement post-COVID-19 economic recovery strategies. Tuesday’s discussion featured H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat moderated by Dr. Witney Schneidman, Senior International Advisor for Africa at Covington, with closing remarks delivered by Stephen Lande, President of Manchester Trade.
CCA President and CEO, Florizelle Liser delivered the opening remarks and welcomed H.E. Wamkele Mene. Ms. Liser stated, “through this series, you will gain insights on the continent’s economic outlook and actionable intelligence to guide you and your business for the year ahead.”
During the fireside chat, H.E. Wamkele Mene discussed the impact of AfCFTA for the economies of the African nations and noted some of the key opportunities it will open for both established and first-time investors on the continent. He highlighted AfCFTA’s success in the first phase and the plans to move into phase two by August 2021.
H.E. Mene identified that the biggest challenges facing AfCFTA are the different customs procedures, trade facilitation issues and inadequate infrastructure. He emphasized that AfCFTA members would need to build the capacity of national customs authorities, increase their efficiency, and empower them to implement the rules, and fight corruption.
In addressing the impact of the pandemic on the implementation of AfCFTA, H.E. Mene noted that Africa was affected disproportionately by COVID-19 due to its reliance on exports, which dropped by fifty percent in 2020. The economic repercussions of the pandemic underscored Africa’s need to accelerate its industrial development and self-sufficiency. Secretary-General Mene highlighted the crucial role of AfCFTA in Africa’s post-pandemic recovery, explaining that it will drive economic activity and speed up overall recovery, calling AfCFTA “the heart of Africa’s recovery.”
Tuesday’s session concluded with closing remarks from Stephan Lande who acknowledged the importance of AfCFTA, praising the efforts of those who made it possible. Drawing on over fifty years of experience in trade policy, Mr. Lande advised U.S. companies to invest in Africa to leverage its enormous potential market. Mr. Lande emphasized that AfCFTA should not give preferential treatment to any developed economy and that all members and investors must strictly adhere to the rules.