Shandini NaidooBy Shandini Naidoo|March 30, 2022|6 Minutes|In Risk and Glory, Risk & Glory League

Risk and Glory

Africa is our oyster!

“The world is your oyster” basically means, you are in a position to take the opportunities that life has to offer.

The metaphor that informs the saying speaks of an oyster, the chance that there may be a pearl inside it. An oyster can be hard to open, but once opened, the outcome may be better than you expected, inside the oyster might lay a valuable treasure, a pearl.

I believe this is the perfect analogy to describe what a Continental Free Trade Area in Africa will result in. A Continental Free Trade area will open Africa up to greater opportunities. Like the oyster, Africa’s history, laws, regulations, trade barriers have made it “hard to open”, but once Africa is opened the possibilities are endless. Businesses in Africa may find the pearls needed to be a valuable addition to their success and growth, with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa has become our oyster.

We welcome the launch of the AfCFTA agreement on the 1st of January 2021. These agreements seek to establish a single continent-wide marketplace for goods, services and the promotion of movement of capital and people across the continent.

Born an African, I have a deep sense of pride in the diversity of our Continent. After all, it is the people, the places, the culture, and our shared history that unites us as Africans. I always believed that Africa possessed a great untapped abundance and potential, with the right vision, tools, laws, infrastructure, and policies would be able to cultivate an Africa that is self-sufficient, progressive, and prosperous. It appears the drafters of the AfCFTA shared the same sentiment.

A continental free trade area promises African businesses greater market access and opportunities, generating more trade and investment, and enhancing greater value addition, increased productivity, and growth for African products. This is with the hope of leading the continent to greater employment opportunities for its people and further enlarging the African marketplace. A continental free trade area is said to bolster the continent’s recovery by building Africa’s resilience by boosting intra-Africa trade of goods and services, this will embolden African businesses and strengthen the state’s economies.

As a lawyer and holder of a Masters in International Economic Law, I have a unique appreciation for regional organizations and governments who seek to build a united Africa through regional integration and cooperation through the mechanisms that already exist. The AfCFTA agreement is a marvel, a complex and detailed plan for a united continent with vast ideas of inclusion, promotion, and development of Africa and its people.

As the Director of an International Trade and Development firm, specializing in the export management and trading of agricultural produce, the trade bottlenecks that I experienced early on made the exporting of perishable produce a very stressful and tedious process. However, it was the laws, regulations, and policies that currently exist, that inspired me to make use of them. I saw that these bottlenecks could be overcome, by utilizing these mechanisms I was inspired to create, develop, and soon launch an electronic marketplace for the SADC region. These mechanisms become enablers for the vision for my business future. They became aids in assisting me in seeking and finding different opportunities, identifying certain needs, and new ways of boosting and promoting agricultural trade in the region.

A continental free trade area will only enhance our vision to move from a regional agricultural marketplace to a continental marketplace and accelerate the development of sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural sector, through research and development, technology, and innovation alongside an effective and sustainable infrastructure to support the region to become self-sufficient in food production.

Over time, the continental trading bloc will progressively increase intra-African trade and limit the non-tariff barriers and bottlenecks to trade. Africa’s sheer size and abundance of land, favourable climatic conditions, fresh-water resources, will put the continent in a favourable position to increase the continent’s capacity and productivity for regional and international export markets.

The launch of AfCFTA has reaffirmed my belief in Africa and its endless possibilities. A continental free trade area has enhanced my vision and outlook for the future of my company. It has inspired a greater long-term vision for the projects and people we seek to empower.

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