Africa is on the move and new acronyms pop up



There is of course ECO, the proposed common currency that the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) plans to introduce gradually as from next year in the framework of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The underlying intention is to abolish the CFA franc, which is considered to be a relic of colonialism. When introduced the ECO should facilitate financial exchanges between the member states (365 million inhabitants).

There is also CFTA, Continental Free Trade Area/African Union (in French ZLECAF, Zone de Libre Echange des pays africains).
The acronym announces the creation of a global African market comprising 44 countries. This new free trade zone (the largest in de world!) would be modelled on the European Union.

Likewise, the 18th Forum of AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunities Act, just kicked off on the 5th of August last in Abidjan. This initiative, launched by President Obama and expiring in 2025, should permit access of African products, if in line with certain criteria, to the American market without custom or trade barriers. As such it is most likely a prelude to new commercial bilateral agreements between the United States and the African countries. This comes at a stage when the Chinese alternative gradually seems to be reaching its limits, in as much that the debt levels of certain African countries are growing exponentially.

These examples show at will how eager the Continent is, to gain autonomy and to organise itself independently.

Is Africa therefor the epicentre of a rapid transformation on an unseen scale? It is clear that the business environment as it stands is far from optimal. Access to credit is becoming increasingly difficult and infrastructural needs are still immense.

In matters of taxation the local businesses still pay far too much. More often than not they focus on raw materials and too often they are state-owned. On top of that they suffer a lack of competitiveness due to complying time and again with ideological ambitions, and because they get bogged down in the quicksand of bad management and inefficiency. Hence, they fail to create locally added value, obstruct the emergence of a domestic market and prevent the creation of a middle class, so instrumental to economic growth.

Should we still wonder why Africa today still only represents 2% of the Global Value Chains? However, even if the above seems contradictory, Africa still deserves our keenest attention. For Africa is today as much as it was yesterday the laboratory of a globalisation without merci. It’s the Continent where new means of cohabitation between mankind and nature are being invented and experimented with, lending it an important role in the future of the planet. It is also here that some of the most urgent and intensive questions are being asked concerning mass emigration or the needs for environmental decarbonisation.

Any thought with an open mind for plurality in the 20th century inevitably will have to abide by these parameters.

As ever fully aware of its mission the CBL-ACP remains more than ever alert for the changing realities in our vast southern neighbour, so as to maximally serve the interests of its members.


Guy Bultynck
Chairman, CBL-ACP