Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, provides a market of 1.3 billion people, likely to create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc but what exactly will Africans be trading in, asks *Sylvester Bagooro.

What products would pass as African products (rules of origin in trade language) under Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) remain contested by member states, trade experts and varied stake-holders in Africa. The contest emanates from how to agree on rules that will serve not only the diverse immediate interests of member states but also the broader picture of economic transformation in Africa as envisaged by the Heads of State when they launched the negotiations of the AfCFTA in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015.

Related to the rules are weak productive bases of most African economies and with less sectorial linkages among others. Hence the rules must be appropriately defined to suit the African reality. If loosely defined, Africa’s market will be flooded with foreign products and the much-needed economic transformation will be a mirage. On the other hand, if they are too strict, they can also be counter-productive and frustrate the smooth operation of potential and existing regional value chains. The resolution of this conundrum is foundational.

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