AfCFTA secretary-general urges Africa to seize trade opportunity

African Continental Free Trade Area Secretary-General Wamkele Mene (right) poses for a photo with African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Ambassador Albert Muchanga (left) during the swearing in ceremony for the AfCFTA Secretary-General at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, March 19, 2020. PHOTO: TWITTER/African Union Department of Trade and Industry

The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Wamkele Mene urged Africa not to be discouraged by disruptive effects of the coronavirus pandemic from a trade perspective.

Mene instead urged Africans to view the current situation which has negatively affected global trade, capital markets, supply chains and public health as an opportunity rather than a crisis.

Mene spoke after a swearing in ceremony of the AfCFTA Secretariat General at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday.

“…through the AfCFTA we have an opportunity to reconfigure our supply chains, to reduce reliance on others and to expedite the establishment of regional value chains that will boost intra-Africa trade,” Mene told delegates.

Mene said that the AfCFTA offers Africa an opportunity to confront significant trade and economic development challenges which have resulted in a very low percentage of intra-Africa trade of just 18%.

“In the next few weeks, I will initiate discussions on this issue with the Commissioner for Trade & Industry and our technical partners UN ECA and UNCTAD,” he added.

So far, 39 African countries have registered a total of more than 900 positive cases of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that Africa should “prepare for the worst” as the coronavirus begins to spread locally.

Health experts have warned that even facilities in Africa’s richest nation, South Africa, could be overwhelmed by the virus’ spread.