Lobby group the African Business Council (AfBC) has called for the continent’s governments to ensure that 40% of public-sector contracts go to African companies rather than overseas competitors.
AfBC president Amany Asfour said the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement would depend on the continent growing its private sector.
Asfour urged the region’s governments to push for legislation in their respective parliaments that would prioritise African businesses in public-sector procurement.
Her remarks came at a workshop titled “Accelerating the African Continental Free Trade Area: The Strategic Significance of the Pan-African Parliament”, organised by the Pan-African Parliament to help accelerate the implementation of the agreement.
She said that unless AfCFTA signatory countries started to rely on suppliers within the continent for goods and services that could be found there, the agreement would fail to reach its potential.
Governments also need to build the capacity of their domestic industries in areas such as pharmaceuticals or garments to ensure suppliers are available within the continent, Asfour added.
It is urgent to ensure that Africa has manufacturing industries to leverage the continent’s mineral wealth, she said.
Asfour cited potential demand for 200m electric vehicles (EVs) in China – many of them relying on minerals such as lithium or cobalt produced in Africa.
“It is outside the capacity of our African private sector” to be able to manufacture those batteries,” she said, and called for policies that are “geared towards rectifying” this state of affairs.
Earlier this month, WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called on African countries to reduce intra-trading costs to realise the benefits of AfCFTA.
Okonjo-Iwealan was quoted as saying: “The costs are because of the barriers; trading in Africa is equivalent to [a] 435% tariff.
“Unless we can deal with the costs and bring them down, it would be difficult for us to actualise good implementation of AfCFTA.”
The agreement was formed in 2018 when 44 countries joined the bloc. They were later joined by 10 more signatories.