By Patience Loum
The Chairperson of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) has revealed that Africa can benefit from $3.4 Trillion in GDP if the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is implemented inclusively. The Gambia’s Minister of Justice has also highlighted the importance of a Human Rights approach in the implementation of the AfCFTA during a meeting held at the margins of the 73rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).
The AfCFTA came into force after the Gambia’s National Assembly ratified it in May 2019. The agreement seeks to promote social and economic development in Africa with the creation of a single market and the free movement of goods and persons as well as services. It is designed to boost intra-African trade by up to 52% and is a key project in the implementation of AU Agenda 2063 goals.
Dr Mugwadi, Chairperson of the NANHRI believes that the AfCFTA agreement is a monumental turning point for the continent given its broad coverage of trade in goods and services, investments, intellectual property rights and competition policy.
“We are at the cusp of an economic revolution in Africa as it is one of the flagship projects of the AU agenda 2063 envisaging the creation of a single market through the liberalization of free movement of goods, services, capital, and natural persons,” he said.
“Projections show that it has the capacity to generate a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion thus lifting approximately 30 million Africans out of poverty. The positive ramifications of proper implementation of the AfCFTA are thus incredible and must be lauded. However, as human rights defenders, we must be cautious as we have learned that development that is not centred on a human rights-based approach often enriches a few whilst dispossessing and exacerbating the situation of marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
NANHRI believes that AfCFTA can only be successful if there is a seamless movement of people, goods and services. However, the free movement of people across the continent remains on paper where legal frameworks have been put in place. The current regimes of national protectionist policies will substantively and negatively impede trade under this part.
The African Human Rights Chief explained that “we can only trade in an integrated Africa where every country is home for everyone. We can not trade with each other when laws consider us foreigners to one another”.
Minister of Justice says Women Consists 70% of Cross Border Traders
The Gambia’s Minister of Justice Hon Dawda Jallow delivered a statement highlighting the importance of active participation and the inclusion of vulnerable populations in the implementation process of the AfCFTA, which he said should always be protected. He noted that small businesses, farmers, women and children and indigenous groups should be afforded the opportunity to fully participate while having their rights always protected.
“It should be noted that women constitute 70% of cross-border traders and their role should not be overlooked. They make up a big chunk of the informal economy and agriculture. I am hopeful that with the advent of AfCFTA, there will be better trading opportunities and wider doors opened for women. Their rights should however be protected at all times,” detailed the Gambia’s Justice Minister.
He said that he is convinced that the National Human Rights Commission and all National Human Rights Institutions in Africa will through their hard work and relentless efforts, ensure that the human rights of vulnerable populations are always protected.
According to the AfCFTA Website 54 African Union States have signed out of 55 meaning that only Erritrea hasn’t signed the AfCFTA in the African Continent. Below are some facts which can be downloaded from the AfCFTA website as well. Although the Fact Sheet published in May 2022 notes that 43 coutries have deposited their instrument of ratification the website highlights that one more country has deposited its instrument of ratification bringing it up to 44.