The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which aims to create a market for African countries to prosper by engaging in intra-continental trade, has been moving at a slow pace. While 80% of African countries endorsed the agreement last year, only eight of the 44 countries are currently using the AfCFTA to their advantage.
Joy Impano, associate at Gikera & Vadgama Advocates (GVA) based in Kenya, says the AfCFTA has the potential to transform trade within the African bloc by promoting economic development, creating jobs and facilitating industrialisation on the continent.
However, there have been many challenges which include non-tariff barriers such as customs delays and inadequate customs procedures, cumbersome and bureaucratic regulations, unequal bargaining power and different regulations.
In addition, poor quality infrastructure such as roads, railway networks and ports were other practical impediments, says Impano, while also pointing out that these issues were being addressed.
“While infrastructure remains a key problem in actualising this dream, we are seeing African countries invest a lot in infrastructure, and so we hope that, over time, this hurdle will be crossed,” she said.
Impano believes that technology will play a major role in advancing the AfCTFA, especially for small- and medium enterprises.
“Technology certainly can be that silver bullet that we need,” she noted. “One of the challenges the African continent is facing is poor infrastructure and so instead of transporting goods by road (to shops), you could sell them online and access a bigger platform and market. So technology can play a significant role in facilitating trade under these agreement platforms such as e-commerce. Digital payment systems can help simplify and streamline trade processes, reduce transaction costs and improve efficiency in many ways.”
In the podcast Impano elaborates on the risks that the AfCFTA can pose when it comes to the economic capacity, infrastructure and competitiveness among countries.
The conversation wraps up with Tom and Impano analysing the critical role that lawyers can play when it comes to resolving disputes which are bound to happen as their clients engage in more intra-African trade.
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