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As its name implies, the Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) action plan aims to overcome the barriers for intra-African trade, intending to double trade flows by 2022. The BIAT action plan focuses on seven interlinked areas, and is coupled with the Continental Free-Trade Agreement (CFTA), due to be adopted in March 2018.

Can intra Africa trade double by 2022The CFTA is an Africa-wide free trade agreement (FTA) designed to boost intra-African trade and pave the way for the future establishment of a continental customs union. It builds on existing Tripartite FTA negotiations among three African regional economic communities (REC’s): the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC), although it would like to incorporate all other African RECs too.

The decision to establish the CFTA was adopted as early as 2012 by the heads of state at the 18th ordinary session of the African Union (AU), and negotiations officially began in June 2015. In bringing together all 54 African countries with a combined GDP of more than $3,4 trillion, the CFTA is an ambitious project that will connect more than one billion people to a variety of cross-continental goods and services through enhanced trade facilitation and greater movement of people and investments.

The President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and the Executive Secretary for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe, consider intra-African trade to be “different from the trade goods that flow from Africa to the rest of the world, which are mostly crops, mineral products, metals and oil”. They believe that the CFTA will allow local small and medium-sized enterprises – the continent's overwhelming employer – to manufacture and sell “value-added and industrial products” like processed agricultural goods, basic produce and financial and retail services to neighbours.

According to them, it is incumbent upon BIAT and CFTA to enable and require Africans to produce physical and digital products and services that Africans need or want; make it easier to pay for them; resolve disputes quickly and online; protect personal data; protect intellectual property; have affordable, reliable Internet access; selectively use blockchain; and cede national pride for the benefit of the continent.

Image credit: : https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/profiles/vera-songwe

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