is a game changer with the potential to move millions from a rural subsistence agriculture-based society to an early stage industrial society.
Manufacturing wages are five times more productive for GDP growth than agriculture.
Many of the criteria needed for Africa to prosper finally appear to be aligning. These include a highly competitive young workforce that is willing and able to adopt new technology and embrace the fourth industrial revolution, combined with increasing political stability across the continent and vast, untapped energy resource discoveries that are attracting billions of dollars of foreign investment.
The latter is generating dividend payments for governments in countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mauritania that are sufficient for them to develop as they become net energy exporters.
The AfCFTA has the ability to bind all these prospects together and deliver real growth.
China is first out of the blocks. It is interacting with the private and public sectors in Africa to realise the benefits anticipated from the AfCFTA. Already at the forefront of infrastructure projects in Africa, Chinese manufacturing initiatives are now spreading across the continent.
Chinese companies are relocating their manufacturing hubs from China to Africa in the expectation of tariff-free regional trade and competitive export markets. The alignment of Africa with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is now at the forefront of all Sino-African intergovernmental discussions.
If Africa can implement the agreements in practice, and other countries and trading blocs follow China’s lead, the AfCFTA has a good chance of living up to its promise, propelling Africa to the forefront of global manufacturing.
Geoffrey White is chief executive of Agility Africa, a logistics company.
beyondbrics is a forum on emerging markets for contributors from the worlds of business, finance, politics, academia and the third sector. All views expressed are those of the author(s) and should not be taken as reflecting the views of the Financial Times.
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