The African Union’s (AU) biggest achievement yet is the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
According to Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, Dean of Academic Affairs, Ghana Armed Forces and Staff College, “It is the biggest Free Trade Area ever established in the world, since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established."
While acknowledging breakthroughs made by the Union since 1963 ahead of this year’s African unity day celebration on Monday, he said the Continent was also inundated by several hiccups such as political instability which undermined economic and social integration.
The AU Day, also known as Africa Day, is celebrated annually on May 25 to commemorate the formation of the Organisation of Africa (OAU) spearheaded by the likes of Ghana’s Dr Kwame Nkrumah on this day in 1963.
Analysts hold the view that the establishment of the continental body was a significant milestone in the quest for African unity, which started way back in 1945 at the Pan African Conference in Manchester, United Kingdom.
About 54 AU member countries with more than one billion people and counting, the Dr Antwi-Danso noted, put together was a huge economy and a market area comparable to China and the North America.
He added, “And it is a huge market, if indeed we're able to establish it, it’s one of the biggest things that the AU has done since its inception.”
With Africa’s 1.2 billion population, he said, the creation of the AfCFTA would be comparable to free trade areas like China with about 1.8 billion people and India’s 1.5 population.
It would promote and sustain trading among African countries and promote large investments in the continent as well as remove trade barriers.
“The unfortunate situation is that we trade among ourselves only 14 per cent and we trade vertically with the North [African] countries - It is 86 per cent,” he stated.
“Now that we're talking about boosting each country, the AfCFTA is going to boost trade, we trade among ourselves, it will bring awareness. It will bring infrastructure that is what we want to achieve,” he added. “A situation where the world looks at Africa before they can also move.”
The AU had also been commended for introducing common policies on foreign and agriculture among others and establishing the African Parliament.
Dr Antwi-Danso lauded the AU for the agenda 2063, where it had set itself to see that the hundredth anniversary of the Union, saying Africa would be strong enough to drive the world by her own destiny.
Commenting on this year’s AU day theme, “Silencing the guns,” the Dean, said one of the debilitating factors against African unity was instability and neglect of the ordinary African in the integration process.
“Instability is a virus that does not bode well for integration at all. Everywhere you have integration, the idea is to have the free trade, free infrastructure,” he said.
With AfCTA, “We are close to heaven, but unfortunately, the continent is dotted with myriads of spots of instability,” citing, Central Africa Republic, Libya, Algeria and the Sahel region, which he noted, “is the biggest part of instability in the world.”
“If you look at all these, you can't build the African continental free trade area in the midst of instability. And instability is the biggest virus when you talk about integration.”