Historically, African countries have often traded with neighbouring countries or within regional economic communities rather than the continent as a whole. Poor infrastructure and high tariffs are some of the reasons trade partnerships across the continent is constrained.
Ultimately each regional economic community has often focused a great deal on promoting regional partnership rather than acting as an anchor to steer towards economic integration within the continent. As a result of the tough trade rules the movement of goods from one African region to another has been somewhat complicated compared to goods imported from outside the continent.
Countries within the same economic community still face some challenges. Take for example the lengthy procedure to prepare import and export documents which often causes unnecessary border delays. To the extent that goods are held at the border for several weeks while the paperwork is being processed. I certainly think the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) could be a game changer in resolving trade issues in Africa, if implemented properly. This means each country must employ appropriate policy instruments to ease the process of moving goods.
The AfCFTA could benefit from the creation of an organisation independent from the African Union which regulates and promote trade in the continent which is likely to push the agenda forward to improve how states engage in terms of trade. The biggest concern with the trade agreement is the influence of greater economies such as South Africa over weak economies in establishing the trade rules. Undoubtedly they will want to pursue an agenda most suited to their interests and this could leave other countries with little influence.
Emmanuel Chilamphuma is a Senior Analyst at Edgebold Capital