AfCFTA must be our development beacon in 2021

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 00:00 |
World Trade Organisation headquarters. Photo/Courtesy

With Covid-19, 2020 was challenging for everyone globally. Amidst international travel restriction and lockdowns, immediate neighbours became important trading partners.

It is on this note that operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at dawn of 2021 is significant.

AfCFTA portends great fortune for Africa if only leaders could seize the opportunity it offers. The economic bloc is said to have a combined market population of over 1.3 billion people worth more than $3.4 trillion.

It has been touted as largest trading bloc since the  World Trade Organisation. But countries have to overcome obstacles to reap its benefits.

While AfCFTA offers an opportunity for Africa economic transformation, a lot of work needs to be done to improve agricultural development and productivity in individual countries.

Structural transformation that would accelerate relevance of the continental trade is predicated on agriculture transformation and development.

Even as the conversation gets traction, production process is influenced by actions of households and firms in every country.

This is why in 2021, Kenya must focus on enhancing policies that will boost local production while focusing on the continental market.

To be prioritised is strategic clustering of ecological zones as outlined in the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth strategy 2019-2029.

Counties must be encouraged to combine effort to boost productivity and consider joint investment in manufacturing.

Mass production of quality products will offer Kenya an opportunity at AfCFTA high table. 

In 2021, it is imperative that research funding be enhanced. Clustering of Universities and research foundations according to capabilities in generating scientific research in different sectors will be essential if Kenya has to get a step ahead.

Development of human capital is another key element that Kenya must focus on.

Universal primary and secondary education must be complemented by vocational training to foster technical skills.

To this end, every county must be encouraged to establish a well-equipped vocational training centre in every ward. Plus, the government should consider fully funding this training.

AfCFTA just like any other global market post Covid-19 will be dominated by online platforms and transactions.

Hence, human capital development relevant in globally must be accompanied by capabilities such as digital skills.

It will be essential for government to enhance digital policies; thus that every government service be offered through digital platforms will act as a motivating factor for individuals to build their digital capabilities.

Kenya must lead in pursuing regional and continental policies that would  provide an enabling environment for AfCFTA.

Priority must be joint infrastructure development, including fast-tracking of the construction of railway lines connecting East Africa and of road networks both local and regional.

Since policies are determined by politics, leaders must be cognisant of their words and actions.

AfCFTA will require huge political will both nationally and continentally.

Therefore, diplomacy must be the tool through which any misunderstanding must be resolved.

Importantly,  AfCFTA operationalisation would require corruption be eliminated. This calls for streamlining of cross-border policies.

Since reciprocity is a guiding principle of international relation, Kenya must ensure her neighbours are treated with respect and dignity.

This is how Kenya will reap the benefit of the continental trading bloc. — The writer is an International Food Policy Analyst

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