CUTS Ghana, a research and public policy think tank, has called on the African Union to immediately postpone the scheduled date for the commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
It said the proposed July one date for the commencement of trade under the AfCFTA was no longer feasible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delaying the event for at least six months from the scheduled dates, CUTS said, would allow countries and businesses to recover from the pandemic to enable a smooth take off of trade.
A statement issued on Thursday, and signed by Mr Appiah Kusi Adomako, the Country Director of CUTS International, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, said it was undeniable that the virus had already taken a significant toll on lives and the economies across the continent.
The projected revenue of African governments had been hard hit and majority of businesses, it said, were not in a good shape to take advantage of the agreement.
It explained: "The proposed postponement is premised on the hope that the infection curve would be flattened by the third quarter of this year, and the possibility of the availability of a vaccine for Covid-19 early next year.
"If we decide to stick to the July 1st date, some countries could use the virus outbreak as a pretext to close their national borders to goods and services, since goods and services cannot move without people," the statement.
It explained that a postponement of the date would also allow for the unfinished agenda on the protocols on goods to be completed and also permit the Secretariat, which is headquartered in Accra, Ghana, to be fully set up in terms of personnel and staff to ensure that trading took off with no hitch.
CUTS International is an independent non-profit economic policy research, advocacy and capacity building think tank, with regional centers in Accra, Lusaka, and Nairobi, Geneva, Delhi, Jaipur and Washington, DC.
CUTS' functional areas are in trade and development, regional integration, competition policy, economic and investment regulation as well as consumer education.