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GAME CHANGER: 44 Out of 55 African Leaders Sign Historic Free-Trade Agreement To Boost Economic Growth On The Continent

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African leaders have signed an agreement to set up a massive free-trade area to improve regional integration and boost economic growth across the continent. The deal to create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed at an extraordinary summit in Kigali, Rwanda by representatives of 44 of the 55 African Union (AU) member states.

Only 16 percent of Africa’s trade takes place between countries on the continent today, according to the union. The commission expects that numer to jump to more than 50 percent if all 55 nations sign on to the pact.

“Our peoples, our business community and our youth, in particular, cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic takeoff and perpetuate misery, even though Africa is abundantly endowed with wealth,” said AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Albert Muchanga, the commissioner for trade and industry at the African Union Commission, which oversaw the negotiations, said the new agreement also aimed to create jobs and broader economic diversification, in particular by overcoming the continent’s reliance on exporting resources like minerals and oil, and by reducing non-tariff business hurdles, like onerous regulation. He also said yearly monitoring and evaluation will yield better results for this agreement than for its regional predecessors.

Why Some Countries Did Not Sign

The list of all countries that did not sign the agreement was not immediately available. We do know that some of the countries holding out include Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

New York Times reported that of the 11 holdouts, Nigeria and South Africa represent $700 billion — or one-third — of the $2.1 trillion in gross domestic product across all 55 African countries. The two countries are also home to 242 million people, or 20 percent of Africa’s population of 1.2 billion.

Nigeria’s Reasons

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria pulled out of the signing ceremony after President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled his attendance on Sunday. A statement at the time said the decision was made “to allow time for broader consultations”.

Buhari who has since set up a presidential committee to take two weeks widening consultations on AfCFTA, believes that the economic and security implications of Nigeria signing the deal must be further discussed.

‘‘We will not agree to anything that will undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, or that may lead to Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for finished goods,’‘ Buhari explained.

Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria and an elder statesman on the continent, called the Buhari administration’s reluctance “criminal,” according to KTPress, a Rwandan news outlet.

“I am surprised that any African leader at this time would be doubting or debating the benefits of what is going to be signed here and fail to show up,” he said.

“The signing and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will enable a shift from dependence on assistance to increased trade.

“The establishment of the Free Trade Area will result in the establishment of a market of over one billion two hundred million people, with a combined gross product of over three trillion dollars.”

“That is where our salvation lies, trading amongst ourselves and consequently developing our economies. The agreement will inspire a change a perception of the continent by the rest of the world,” he said.

South Africa’s Reasons

President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the Kigali Declaration on the establishment of the African Continental

Cyril Ramaphosa did not sign the crucial agreement at the African Union  (AU) Extraordinary Summit in Rwanda’s capital Kigali — only signing the declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Ramaphosa said that his government welcomed the “historic moment” saying that it had been dreamt of by the founding fathers of the AU, saying that South Africa was pledging itself totally to opening up trade by signing the declaration.

“We are part of this process of opening up Africa for trade. All that is holding us back from signing the actual agreement is our own consultation process. We still  need to consult at home, to consult in Cabinet, to consult the partners at [the National Economic Development and Labour Council ] Nedlac, and finally to consult Parliamentarians, ” Ramaphosa said.

“So we are really going the clean up process of ensuring that everybody is on board. As far as we are concerned as South Africa we are very much part of it. The agreement therefore is very much alive, it’s not dead in the water. We as South Africa want free trade in Africa because we are an important player in the African continent.”

Zambia’s Reasons

Zambia President Edgar Lungu

Zambia is another country that did not sign the AfCFTA as it was still conducting internal negotiations on some protocols in the agreement, a Zambian official said. Zambia’s foreign minister, Joseph Malanji, said Zambia only signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the agreement.

He said in a statement that Zambia had negotiated the protocol on goods and services and the dispute settlement mechanism, while the remaining protocols, including on trade competition, investment and the intellectual property, were yet to be negotiated.

The Minister, however, said the signing of the declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African countries in the quest to improve intra-Africa trade.

Meanwhile, Zambia’s commerce, trade and industry minister Christopher Yaluma said in the same statement that Zambia will not sign the protocol on the free movement of people as the country was not ready for it.

Moving Forward

Rwanda President Paul Kagame

Rwanda, which hosted the extraordinary summit, went to great lengths to make it happen in the year when its president Paul Kagame is chairing the African Union.

The agreement will come into force after 22 countries ratify it in their national parliaments, which is expected to happen within the year. Thereafter, countries will be added as they ratify.

The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 percent of goods, with 10 percent of “sensitive items” to be phased in later. It will also liberalize trade in services and might in the future include free movement of people and a single currency.

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Business and Development

Rwanda Makes Remarkable Strides In Its Economy Just 2.5 Decades After A Devastating Genocide

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Kigali, the capital of Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda’s capital

Rwanda is emerging as an economic powerhouse in East Africa just 2.5 decades after a very dark and devastating genocide. So good is the economic progress that the country has reduced its reliance on foreign donations. Currently, Rwanda domestically funds 84 percent of its budget. Two decades ago, the country could afford to fund only 36 percent of its budget.

Indicators

In addition to the reduced reliance on foreign aid, several indicators demonstrate Rwanda’s rapid growth. Major indicators are the rate of growth, decline in inequality, diversification, and decline in rates of poverty.

Growth Rate

Between 2001 and 2014, the average economic growth was 8 percent. The IMF projected Rwanda’s economic growth at 7.2 percent in 2018. The projections were based on favorable rains and strong industrial activity. In the first quarter of 2018, Rwanda registered a 10.6 percent growth in economy.

Equality in Rwanda

The country’s growth is also characterized by a decline in rates of inequality. The decline is largely due to improved healthcare, school enrollment, literacy, and life expectancy.

Greater equality is exhibited in the country’s parliament, where women make up 68 percent of parliament. This is one of the highest rates globally, putting Rwanda up in the ranks of countries with highest female representation in parliament.

Diversification

Farming is an important sector in Rwanda’s economy. A majority of the population still live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming. The government plans to shifts this focus to include more economic and investment opportunities. Specifically, the country is moving towards becoming more of a service-oriented and knowledge-based economy.

Decline in Poverty

The economic growth has translated into reducing poverty levels across the country. In 2005, 57 percent of Rwandese lived below the poverty line. By 2010, this number had reduced to 45 percent. In 2017, the poverty level was registered at 38.2 percent, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda.

Kagame’s Transformative Leadership

At the centre of the country’s rapid growth is President Paul Kagame. Kagame adopted and pursued policies that have transformed Rwanda to a prospective middle economy. The President continues to implement development plans for the country, as outlined in the country’s vision 2020. Also, under Kagame, Rwanda’s ease of doing business has significantly improved.

Vision 2020

Vision 2020 is Rwanda’s blueprint to continued economic progress. The vision is based on several pillars that include good governance, human resource development, infrastructure development, and private sector-led development. Other pillars are regional and international integration and market-oriented agriculture. With only one year left on the Plan, the government is still optimistic it will hit the targets.

Rwanda will be moving from Vision 2020 to Vision 2050, which heightens the growth prospects of the country by targeting a high income economy status by 2050. In order to reach this target, the country needs to achieve an average growth rate of 10 percent.

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African Ingenuity

Video Games Are Emerging in Africa With Strong African themes

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Video games are becoming a booming industry in Africa thanks to a mushroom of innovators and developers on the continent. Startups are spiraling across the continent coming up with unprecedented games and content with African themes. The gaming industry in Africa is now worth millions of dollars due to relentless efforts of these developers, programmers, scientists, entrepreneurs and other tech gurus.

Madiba Guillaume Olivier had dreams like any other teenager when he was growing up in Cameroon. His most pressing dream was to move to America or even to Europe in order to pursue not “greener pastures” but his zeal for video games. He lived a life of video games because his father owned a video store. Olivier did not sit and wait; rather he went online in order to understand more about game design. However, it was not until when he was doing computer science at the University of Yaoundé that his dream (and that of the continent) started to bear fruit. He partnered with a group of friends to work on a project they dubbed Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.

Video Games Project and the Prince of Planet Auriona

The project was a 2D flight of the imagination game that featured Enzo and Erine, a Prince and his fiancée. The two were embroiled in a quest to reclaim the lost power after a family member betrayed them in the planet Auriona. The team later improved the game design and used it to dive deeper into the industry. Olivier did not move to US or even Europe. The project led to a natural death of his dreams of moving but gave birth to even better dreams with continent-wide and later worldwide ramifications. Olivier and his team released the official version of the game in 2011 winning the hearts of fans, investors and everything else in between. That is how Africa got Kiro’o Games, the first video game studio to come up with an African-themed mythological video game.

“We started to think about the fact that we can make our own studio here [Africa] and sell games abroad,” Olivier remembers.

Olivier and his team are not the only innovators doing Africa proud in this emerging video game industry. In fact, over the last ten years, many video game developers and startups have sprung up across the continent. There are startups in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia and even in Egypt. Because of growth in funding opportunities and supporting accelerator tech hubs on the continent, Africa is moving beyond the confines that resulted from inadequate infrastructure in some countries. Traditional fintechs in Arica are now normal and nothing to write home about anymore. The continent is expanding beyond what has now become normal tech disruptions in education, health, insurance, agriculture into other areas. Now is the time for the gaming industry.

Other African Themed Video Games

The African narratives, myths, legends, traditions, stories, creativities, mysteries and other mystical societal characteristics are more frightening than Halloween. Or at least to those who understand why it is commemorated in the first place. Tapping into this social heritage and cultural material is a sure success path for the gaming industry. That is why a Moroccan Telcom has invested in a mobile game.

There are other notable gaming innovators doing exciting video games. This boom can be observed with The International Game Developers Association having seven chapters in Africa.

Some innovators in this space include:

  • Ananse: The Origin by Leti Arts in Kenya, is a game based on impressive folklore from Ghana.
  • Celestial Games and Thoopid are also doing Africa proud with magnificent games from the South of the continent.
  • Ebola Strike Force that touches on the story of researchers and scientists yearning to save humankind from the lethal virus is breathtaking.
  • Mzito by Weza Interactive Entertainment in Kenya is a game that takes users on a journey to save the continent. Here, you play as a lion and use ancient spirits to save Africa from ancient corruption. “We wanted to focus on the African theme on because we think it’s time for Africa,” George Ohere, the Weza Interactive CEO said recently.
  • Sambisa Assault is another one that gives game enthusiasts the chance to join the fight against terror movements.
  • The Okada Rider by ChopUp studio in Nigeria that simulates the notorious traffic congestion in the streets of Lagos.
  • Digitalmania has more than 87 magnificent games on Google Play, Facebook, and Apple Store. Sadly, these tech giants do not allow merchant payments in Tunisia. Because of this, the innovator cannot get revenue from their innovations.

The African Video Game Industry by Revenue

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Beauty

Miss Algeria 2019 Is Black, Racist Trolls Are Attacking Her But She Won’t Back Down

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The newly crowned winner of Miss Algeria beauty pageant has hit back at critics who have hurled racial abuse at her because of her skin color.

“I will not back down because of the people who criticised me,” Khadija Ben Hamou told Algerian news site TSA.

Slurs about her dark skin colour, nose and lips have been made on Facebook and Twitter.

ALSO READ: Tunisia Becomes Second African Country And First Arab Nation To Outlaw Racism. Here Is What Will Happen If You Break The Law

Darker-skinned Algerians face discrimination in the North African state.

Ms Ben Hamou, who comes from the southern Adrar region, said that she was proud of her identity and winning the competition.

“I am honoured that I have achieved my dream, and I am honoured by the state of Adrar where I come from,” she said.

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