In my view variable geometry is likely to further slow down the implementation of the AfCFTA because it is a way to accommodate less advantageous countries or countries unwilling to move as fast as others. Even if variable geometry is the only way to move forward in trade agreements of the 21th century as some have argued, it makes trade liberalization more complicated and slows down integration initiatives. More detailed research on variable geometry from an African perspective needs to be undertaken because the continent cannot afford the potential failure of the AfCFTA.
Upon improving its infrastructure, Nigeria could very easily leverage its economic base in distributing its products within Africa and internationally. This is already the case in its ‘soft’ products, such as the Nigerian film and music industry, which has seeped into all nooks of African continent, and is largely received internationally. This can be replicated in other aspects, once the foundation is properly laid internally.
There is a feeling that the next decade will be a watershed period in terms of the economic relations between the EU and Africa. Both continents are experiencing sweeping developments that will invariably affect their respective existence and mutual relationships. In Africa, the largest preferential trade area, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has recently been ratified while in Europe, the EU is navigating the challenges of Brexit. All this is taking place in the backdrop of negotiations between the two blocs to replace the Cotonou Agreement which has since 2000 served as the bedrock of economic relations between the EU and ACP states. How, then, will the Africa-EU relationship be impacted – if at all – by the implementation of AfCFTA?
Many mainstream discussions on African regional integration focus on the role of the executive, bureaucrats and state institutions (hereafter referred to as state-actors) in facilitating regional integration. While state-actors play crucial roles in enabling regional integration from a “top-down” perspective, concentration on these state-actors inadvertently means that less focus is paid to the non-state actors involved in the process. This article explains that while state-actors do facilitate regional integration from a top-down perspective, non-state actors have the potential to (and in some cases, already do) facilitate regional integration using a “bottom-up” approach.
For the AfCFTA to succeed will require more than its regulatory framework; a supporting framework is also required and this is found in what Douglass North has termed “mental models”. Mental models are the necessary norms and beliefs of policy makers - their perceptions of the world around them.
This article contends that premised on being Africa’s major trading partners, economies such as the US, the EU, and China are likely to experience trade diversion when the AfCFTA comes into force. As a result of such potential trade diversion, the implementation of the AfCFTA could be hindered. It is only by addressing the interests of these economies that AfCFTA will foreclose the possibility of a “crisis of implementation”.