Turning Lemons to Lemonade: Impact of COVID-19 on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement
For 57 years, the African Union has made slow but steady progress in its efforts towards integration, with one of the long-awaited projects being the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). To launch its operations this year, AfCFTA set out to increase intra-African trade and promote self-sufficiency. What the continent did not see coming was the COVID-19 pandemic, which at first, appeared to have spared the continent, but eventually reached the continent through travellers returning from Asia, Europe, and the United States. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) reported that as of 8 September 2020, there has been a total of 1,306,157 COVID-19 cases and 31,494 deaths in 55 African countries (Africa CDC 2020b). This policy brief argues that the implementation of AfCFTA should be accelerated rather than delayed to negate the current crisis and boost intra-African trade. Local innovative knowledge and technologies should be leveraged to address the continent’s current vulnerabilities caused by COVID-19. The crisis demands heightened African integration rather than isolation. The policy paper begins by recounting the benefits of AfCFTA and the implications of COVID-19 on the functioning of the secretariat, member state commitment, and the economy. It concludes by highlighting the necessary steps needed to salvage the situation.