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2017 : A Continental Free Trade Area in Africa?

Under the aegis of the African Union, the 54 states will set up a "Schengen-like" borderless area in 2017 to boost trade. Negotiations for the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa were formally launched in June 2015 at the African Union Summit in Johannesburg. A year later, a boost seems to be given to the project, although the project exists since the signing in 1991 of the Treaty of Abuja.

Why now ? In a context of global economic crisis, African states are somewhere forced to accelerate the pace. In 2015 the Tripartite Initiative involving COMESA, EAC and SADC was launched, with a view to the preparation of a large free trade area from Cairo to Cape Town. The Tripartite Initiative, the largest free trade agreement involving 26 countries from three regional economic communities (RECs), Comesa, CEA and SADC, with a total of 530 million inhabitants for a gross domestic product Total of $ 630 billion, more than half of Africa's economic output. This initiative has rekindled the interest of African leaders in broadening the continental free trade area.

Intra-African trade must be saved because it accounts for only 10% of trade on the continent, while in the EU, Asia and North America, intra-regional trade represents respectively 70 %, 52% and 50% of trade. Moreover, the share of Africa in world trade is even more derisory since it represents only about 2%. Implementing such an Africa-wide FTA could boost intra-African trade to the tune of US $ 35 billion annually by 2022. A review of the genesis and functioning of this area of free movement of more than one billion people.

The CFTA is a priority initiative of the AU Agenda 2063. The objective of the CFTA is to create a single continental market for goods and services, to establish the free movement of business people. It also aims to pave the way for the acceleration of the establishment of the customs union in 2022 and an African economic community by 2028. This gradual approach is justified by the fact that integration should be consolidated at regional level, through the creation and the strengthening of regional economic communities (RECs). The RECs would ultimately merge into the African Economic Community. (There are 8 RECs : UMA, CEN-SAD, CEDEAO / ECOWAS, UEMOA, MRU, CEEAC, SADC, COMESA, IGAD.)

The current intra-African trade situation is disappointing. Despite the fact that the free movement of persons, the right of residence and the right of establishment are the founding principles enshrined in Chapter VI of the Abuja Treaty, a truck that delivers supermarkets in Southern Africa needs 1,600 documents, permits and licenses to legally cross borders.In the future, the continental free trade area could just as well require the removal of barriers such as the imposition of visa requirements that restrict the movement of people across national borders. Far from being settled, remains the issue of labor mobility among African countries, one of the most contentious issues for African leaders due to security or political instability problems.

Trade and industry are catalysts for African development for the African Union, once the establishment of the CFTA, the competitiveness of industrial products would be increased by exploiting the potential of economies in a wider continental market . The initiative would also help diversify and transform the African economy, improve resource allocation, reduce prices in countries and make Africa less vulnerable to external trade shocks. In addition, regional integration of the continent should integrate regional markets with efficient infrastructure to attract investment and improve access to better products and services.

Twenty million dollars were raised to finance the initial CFTA projects in the areas of goods and services, investment and intellectual property. Of the amount so far obtained from development partners, the AU Member States contributed $ 3 million for 2016 and $ 4.9 million for 2017.
CFTA can be a paradise for international and african criminality and smuggle, like the Schengen area? Planned for 18 July 2017, the release of an African electronic passport should enable nationals of the 54 African countries to travel visa-free across Africa. For now, the initiative only concerns heads of state, government and foreign ministers. In practice, African citizens would retain their national passports and would be issued an African e-passport by the AU. A first on the world scale. But the billion African citizens will have to wait until 2025 to benefit.