Portuguese-speaking countries at the forefront of creating an African free-trade zone

Five of the six Portuguese-speaking African countries are on the list of 44 states that have subscribed to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) project, which received a generally positive reception from civil society.

The first step towards the creation of the AfCFTA was taken at the end of March in Kigali, Rwanda, at the summit of heads of state of the African Union (AU), with the signing of an agreement that provides for the creation of a customs union similar to that of the European Union (EU).

At the head of the signatories is Angola, who was represented at the summit by its president, João Lourenço, as well as Mozambique, also represented by the head of state, Filipe Nyusi.

According to Angolan economist José Carlos Costa, Angola, under Lourenço’s leadership, “embraced this project with enthusiasm,” in contrast with the position hitherto opposed to greater economic integration in the region.

“I would like Angola to embrace regional integration tomorrow and to face a hemispheric integration in the medium term without any reservations, and I, therefore, hope that the enthusiasm shown with the signing of the agreement in Kigali will have as its first consequence a change of position on regional economic integration,” Costa wrote on his website “Angonomics.”

From the AfCFTA project “there will certainly be more positive than negative things, such as the cheaper import of products from other countries in the region and the expansion of markets for our already exporting companies and the emergence of opportunities for those that do not yet export,” he added.

Following the signing of the Kigali agreement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique, José Pacheco, stressed the importance of Africa “to unite to do inter-African business.”

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the agreement “has important economic implications for the African population, “as it will open the market to 1.2 billion people with the possibility of generating great wealth for the continent, accelerating investment, diversifying the economy and increasing trade.”

Signatories of the agreement include Equatorial Guinea, through its prime minister, Francisco Obama Asue, São Tomé and Príncipe and Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), represented at ministerial level.

Guinea-Bissau was thus the only Portuguese-speaking country that did not sign the Kigali agreement.

Moroccan think-tank OCP Policy Center, in a recent analysis of the signing of the agreement, stressed that the “translation of vision into action,” will not be easy, not least because of the need to include large economies such as South Africa and Nigeria, which are still studying their membership, but also to limit the exclusion of products and to define rules of origin for them.

“All African nations are also faced with the need to improve transport infrastructure to enable trade to take place. The larger and richer economies, notably China, the European Union and the United States, have an interest in the success of the free trade zone and there is much they can do to promote a favourable outcome,” said the OCP Policy Center. (macauhub)