March 29, 2020

How Africa’s Economies Can Hedge Against COVID-19

Trustworthy and indepth news stories are more important now than ever.
Support our newsroom by MAKING A CONTRIBUTION HERE

The African Continental Free Trade Area will help dismantle tariff and non-tariff barriers amid a pandemic and global recession. Accelerating Africa’s economic integration will cushion its fragile economies and help turn the continent into the world’s largest common market.

The African Heads of States and Governments pose during African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG – In 2018, 44 countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Area at an extraordinary summit in Kigali. There are now 54 signatories. The agreement will create a tariff-free economic environment to spur business growth, boost intra-continental trade, spark industrialization, and create jobs. To mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19, African Union (AU) member countries and the continent’s institutions should implement the AfCFTA swiftly.

The AfCFTA paves the way for Africa – with 1.2 billion people and a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion – to become the world’s largest common market. But with the coronavirus hitting the global economy, a worldwide recession is looming. The crisis is bound to have destabilizing effects on our fragile economies as the health crisis worsens.

Africa must be prepared. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Africa the least, the majority of African countries have chosen to pre-empt the crisis by restricting non-essential travel and gatherings and closing schools and universities. It is impossible to know whether these measures will stem the health contagion, but Africa will no doubt experience economic contagion.

Africa’s main partners in Europe, and possibly China, are already suffering, and the continent’s economy is still largely extroverted – and thus highly dependent on global demand, especially for raw materials. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that losses in export earnings are expected to reach $101 billion, including $65 billion for oil-producing countries. Health spending could burden state budgets on the continent by at least $10 billion. There are also fears of food shortages and breakdowns in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Two-thirds of African countries are net food importers, and the situation for medicines is similar.

As for the health crisis, the recurring threat of Ebola has given some African states experience in slowing a pandemic. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in West Africa, where the 2014-16 Ebola pandemic hit Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the response to COVID-19 is being organized rapidly. National health institutions have reinforced their institutional capacities. The number of African centers capable of performing diagnostic tests has increased from two to 40 in a month, thanks to the World Health Organization, and the AU Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received a large donation of COVID-19 testing kits from China. Now, the year-old African Medicines Agency must become operational to ensure the coordination of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plan for the continent.

Aside from the health effects, the looming global recession is bound to destabilize Africa’s economies and transform their structure, trade, and commercial channels, as well as how people work and study. Under these circumstances, Africa has no choice but to rely on its own resilience, strengths, and agility, rather than hoping for external salvation, to mitigate the impact of the coming crisis and prepare for the next cycle of globalization.

More than ever, new technology will be called upon to play a critical role. African companies must speed up their digital transition to remain attractive, which means that governments must accelerate their rollout of essential telecommunication infrastructure, including fiber optics and high-speed Internet, and invest in human capital and capacity building. The effort will be complex and demanding, but the time has come for large-scale mobilization.

In this context, there is a pressing need to reduce the continent’s high trade dependence on non-African partners. The AfCFTA can help facilitate this, but that means dismantling tariff and non-tariff barriers as much as possible, and intensifying the economic regionalization processes that have now begun. The liberalization of tariff barriers on 90% of products, for example, was originally scheduled to take place over five years. This timeframe must be reduced.

As it stands, Africa is the least integrated continent. Intra-African trade accounts for less than 16% of the continent’s total trade. Once fully operational, the AfCFTA could boost intra-African trade by 60% in just three years. The agreement will be a catalyst for endogenous development, through trade, with the extension of value chains across the continent helping to lay the groundwork for industrialization.

The acceleration of the AfCFTA is above all a matter of political will. The cost of dismantling the customs taxes that weigh on intra-African trade amounts to $3.5 billion, or a little more than 0.1% of the continent’s GDP. Rescinding these taxes will result in virtually no shortfall, and will unlock the continent’s endogenous growth potential.

Maximizing the possibilities of the AfCFTA will be an effective shock absorber as long as the pandemic, and uncertainty about its course, keeps the global economy depressed. It will also make Africa an attractive proposition when the global economy turns around. The continent has no time to lose.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, former Prime Minister of Niger, is CEO of the African Union Development Agency’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD).

The text has been adapted from Project Syndicate website

We can't do quality journalism without your support

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue are declining, The Chronicles remains committed to "Serving Your Right To Know The Truth". Stand with us as we document Rwanda's remarkable journey for you and the future generation. Do you value our journalism? We can't do it without you. Show us with your support by CONTRIBUTING HERE.
Email your news TIPS to or WhatsApp +250788351327.
You can also find us on Signal


  1. naturally like your web-site but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts.
    Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it
    very bothersome to inform the reality nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

  2. Greate article. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog.
    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hello there, You’ve performed an excellent job.

    I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

  3. Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading through your posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
    Thank you so much!

  4. I will immediately clutch your rss feed as I can not to
    find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
    Kindly let me realize in order that I may just subscribe.

  5. Whats up very nice site!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb .. I will bookmark your website and take the
    feeds also? I’m glad to seek out so many helpful information right here within the post, we want develop more techniques on this regard,
    thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  6. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely great.
    I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you’re stating and the way
    in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it wise.
    I can not wait to read much more from you. This is really a tremendous website.

  7. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming
    from a different web address and thought I should check things out.

    I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking
    at your web page for a second time.

  8. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog
    and wanted to mention that I’ve really enjoyed
    surfing around your weblog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  9. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be helpful to read through articles from other authors and practice something from their websites.

  10. Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I’m going to come back yet again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

  11. Howdy! This article could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!

  12. you are actually a excellent webmaster. The web site loading speed is incredible.
    It seems that you’re doing any distinctive trick. Furthermore,
    The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a great job in this

  13. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting
    a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work
    on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  14. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it
    but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some ideas
    for your blog you might be interested in hearing.

    Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing
    it expand over time.

  15. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your
    excellent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

  16. Wonderful website. Lots of useful info here.

    I’m sending it to several buddies ans also sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thanks on your effort!

  17. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  18. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog.
    A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

  19. I’m not sure exactly why but this blog is loading incredibly slow for me.

    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  20. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?

  21. Hello, all the time i used to check weblog posts
    here in the early hours in the break of day, for
    the reason that i like to learn more and more.

  22. My family members always say that I am killing my time here at net, however I know I am getting
    familiarity everyday by reading such good articles or reviews.

  23. I’m not sure why but this blog is loading very slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end?
    I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  24. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  25. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was once a amusement account it.

    Look complex to more introduced agreeable from you! By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

  26. I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this blog.

    I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts
    from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own site now ;

  27. Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many
    months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have
    any solutions to prevent hackers?

  28. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in truth was once a enjoyment account it.
    Glance complex to more delivered agreeable from you!
    However, how can we keep in touch?

  29. Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you
    knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for
    my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble
    finding one? Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *