In what can also be described as something of a breakthrough for Africa’s future economic prospects, ministers agreed on December 2 – possibly around the same time as the US Senate was burning the midnight oil over tax reform – to form the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
The CFTA is being touted as a massive opportunity for Africa. One of the main reasons cited for the region’s slow pace of economic development isn’t so much it’s lack of trade with the rest of the world, but its well-known inability to trade with itself. As Marc Yombouno, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Guinea, observed at the end of the talks in Niamey, Niger, intra-African trade represents only about 16 percent of the continent’s total trade, whilst in Asia and Europe, intra-regional trade is more like 50 to 60 percent.
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