Following the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in March this year, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) is calling on African nations to bolster their capacities in readiness for implementation of the ambitious plan.

Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, the executive secretary of ACBF, speaking at a panel event during the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s 51st Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa, underscores the importance of enhancing skills necessary for the actualisation of AfCFTA.

“Capacity is central and is the very heart of implementing, actualising and maximising the AfCFTA. The agreement is a game changer if it is properly implemented.”

According to models and scenarios presented by the ECA, the continent will become the world’s largest trade bloc with a market of 1,2-billion people.

Albert Muchanga, the African Union’s trade and industry commissioner, has asked ACBF to assist his organisation in designing a model that would member countries unlock significant revenue that could arise from removing obstacles to intra-African commerce.

“Through cross border trade within our continent the AfCFTA stands to unlock some $60–billion if it is implemented well,” he says.

David Luke, head of ECA Africa Trade Policy Centre, argues that business between Africa’s 54 states would increase if the AfCFTA is implemented by all governments.

“The AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by more than 52% through the elimination of import duties alone. We estimate that the benefits will double if combined with trade facilitation measures to further reduce non-tariff barriers.”

Reiterating on the need to prioritise capacity enhancement and skills transfer, Professor Nnadozie says it is imperative for Africa’s public sector to engage in continuous up-skilling to address the challenges posed by the agreement.

“In Africa we do very well when it comes to conceptualising, designing and even signing agreements and policies aimed at transforming our lifestyles.

“We, however, miss the mark when the actual work of implementing comes. This is where we are insisting that skilling African men and women in readiness for the actualising of the AfCFTA cannot be overlooked.”

Prof Nnadozie adds: “This is a cross-cutting task that needs to be felt across the public and private sectors and even within the academia and civil society all the way to the grassroots.”

According to Zemedeneh Negatu, global chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund in the US, the involvement of the private sector together with the incorporation of skill sets among diaspora Africans should be utilised to give AfCFTA the much needed public buy-in.

“The active participation of the private sector and Diaspora Africans are crucial in making AfCFTA a reality because they are a source of talent and can often possess the skills and hard-earned experience related to international trade matters.”

So far Ghana, Niger, Kenya and Rwanda have ratified the AfCFTA which was signed by 44 African states. The treaty needs to be ratified by 22 states to take effect.