African continent is making strides towards the realization of Agenda 2063. One of the key steps, the free trade agreement, was successfully launched on the 1st of January 2021 after having been delayed by Covid-19.
The trade agreement has hit the ground running. Already recording its first trade under the terms of the free trade treaty.
Ae Trade Group and Ethiopian airlines partnered for the transportation of momentous parcels- handmade trophies from the Kingdom of Eswatini to invoke the AfCTA trade. This trade marks the beginning of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Ethiopian Airlines -DHL is a logistics operation born from a 2008 partnership between the two entities which operate across Africa.
The first shipment of parcels was received in Ethiopia at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on the 1st of January amid pomp and fanfare with a ceremony organized to applaud the start of the trade agreement. The ceremony was graced by high ranking officials from the African Union, DHL, Ethiopian airlines as well as several other key personnel from the private and public sector.
In partnership with the Africa Union, the Ae trade group through its Southern African office will deliver handmade fragile trophies made in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to several African countries. The trophy ornaments were handcrafted from recycled glass and expertly turned into objects of beauty.
The successful delivery of these trophies to different African countries in particular South Africa and Ethiopia signifies the starting phase of AfCTA. The trading of these trophies also marks the opening of an African e-commerce platform dubbed Sokokuu formed out of a partnership between the African Union and Ae Trade Group. Launched in July 2020, the platform will be pivotal in placing made in Africa products within the reach of the market. Through technological innovations like the Sokokuu e-commerce platform, the continent is set to see increased volumes of Intra African trade which are expected to spur economic activity and integration.
Smooth passage of goods
One of the key pillars of trade is an efficient connection for the delivery of goods from point of origin until they reach the final consumer. The partnership between Ethiopian Airline’s logistics units and the Ae Group signifies the first of many critical collaborations meant to ensure smooth trading among African countries.
The link between an integrated African marketplace, free movement of persons and the single air market in Africa cannot be underestimated as it serves as a catalyst for unlocking immense opportunities in Africa for the benefit of Africans and all stakeholders. I believe that the partnership with The African Electronic Trade Group and DHL is crucial, as Ethiopian airlines is a key player in African cargo and passenger transportation. While fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to work to boost intra African trade to pave the way for a brighter future.
Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO Ethiopian airlines
These are the first steps towards digitally-enabled trade across borders which is set to facilitate the accomplishment of a common market. Already several trading blocs exist on the continent for example ECOWAS, SADC, COMESA to facilitate the more efficient movement of goods across borders to allow African countries to benefit from trade opportunities. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement becomes the overarching tool that is meant to coordinate efforts as opposed to fragmented trade. As such, AfCTA provides the means to coordinate efforts towards a common African Agenda for the benefit of all parties involved.
To maintain the momentum exemplified by this first trade, African customs must coordinate efforts in harmonizing border clearance and management. Coordinated border management, data exchange, and integrating cross-border software will go a long way in ensuring the efficient movement of goods goes without a glitch.
An integrated E-commerce platform: Sokokuu
The name Sokokuu is derived from Swahili language meaning common or central market. It was born out of a partnership between the AU and Ae Trade group and is meant to bring together trading under a central e-commerce market. It is expected to speed up processes and allow for more efficient utilization of time and resources.
The platform will promote made in Africa products hence making it easier for customers to access products. The growing middle class on the continent driven by the increasing accessibility of digital technology accounts for the increasing use of the internet. For that reason, providing goods on an e-commerce platform provides the convenience and ease of use that customers have come to expect from providers.
Further integrating products on a single platform is a useful way to lower costs for providers thus improving the ease of doing business.
What sets Sukokuu apart from other marketplaces like Jumia is the made in Africa brand. The platform will carry only made in Africa products. Thus it promotes the buy Africa initiative and encourages the sale of goods from African manufacturers.
The partnership between the African Union and a private business player brings together the business world and the African body to spearhead the continental agreement. The initiative is to be applauded because it involves the business sector in the planning and strategy process of the agreement thus to an extent giving them a level of ownership in the free trade area. This will ensure that all stakeholders work together for the success of the initiative to boost its chances of achievement. It is of importance therefore that Africa’s overseeing body work hand in glove with the business sector to stimulate the success of the free trade area.
We wish to thank the African leaders for bringing this fruitful decision. The AfCFTA serves as an inspiration to the business community which propels us to make a start now, providing payment and logistics services and trade information via sokokuu.africa” CEO and Chairman of the AeTrade Group, Mr. Mulualem Syoum.
The Continental Free Trade Area is in full swing. Already 41 countries have submitted their tariff lowering plans. While this initial trade is largely symbolic, it signifies a commitment to achieve the vision of the common market. Through concerted efforts and commitment by all stakeholders, “the Africa we want” is achievable.