The secretariat, which is located in Accra, is expected to be inaugurated in the presence of 28 leaders of AU member countries that have ratified the AfCFTA agreement and deposited their Instruments of Ratification with the AU Commission.The operationalisation of the secretariat is a necessary requirement to allow trading to commence under the continental single market by July this year.
Prof. Alex Dodoo, in an interview with the Daily Graphic last Thursday, said despite the restrictions on public gatherings, the secretariat would become operational on the scheduled date.
“Government business must continue, and that is the directive from the President, and so from where I sit, I know that the office will be operational as planned,” he said.
Prof. Dodoo explained that although the restrictions imposed on movement and gatherings by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo were to help curb the spread of the virus, “COVID-19 makes a case for us to implement AfCFTA immediately because it has exposed the weakness in our entire operations and shown that we are overly dependent on things made elsewhere”.
He said due to the impact of the outbreak of the disease on economic activities, the government was putting in place measures to ensure that the commencement of trading under AfCFTA did not delay beyond the planned date of July 1, this year.
“The consequence of COVID-19 will be felt more by developing countries, especially those in Africa that depend on foreign imports from South East Asia because now it’s evident that if we were already trading among ourselves, things would have been much better. So this is a wake-up call for Africans to start trading with one another,” he said.
The AfCFTA covers the entire African continent, made up of 55 countries, with a total population of 1.2 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3 trillion.
The objective of the AfCFTA is to expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade on the continent in order to support economic transformation and job creation.
Arguments in some circles are that the economic uncertainty sparked by the outbreak of the COVID-19 may affect the benefits of AfCFTA to AU member countries.
The likely cost to the global economy may rise to $1 trillion in 2020, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“We envisage a slow down in the global economy to under two per cent for this year, and that will probably cost in the order of $1 trillion, compared with what people were forecasting back in September,” the Director, Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies at UNCTAD, Mr Richard Kozul-Wright, said.