Free Trade Vs Security and Peace in Africa; a potential threat to regional integration

As the Pan-African Parliament gears up for the implementation of the much awaited and hailed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, there are concerns over peace and security on the continent and the impact these might have on the successful operationalization of the AfCFTA.

Intra-African trade is envisioned to be a major economic development booster and contribute to the diversification of the African economy that would create employment for the youth.  The AfCFTA also presents an opportunity for free movement of people on the continent. However, all these positives are under threat if peace and security issues remain unresolved in Africa.

Hon. Kone Aboubacar SIDIKI, Chairperson of the Permanent Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflicts Resolutions highlighted the current threats to peace and security. He noted that, “terrorism and radicalization are continually major threats while extremist groups like El Shabaab and Boko Haram have perfected the art of recruitment, using cyber platforms and structural vulnerabilities such as poverty, ethnic and religious diversity and various political ideologies.”

The Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and the Horn of Africa are reportedly the most impacted, with severe humanitarian and economic consequences. To this end, Members of Parliament raised concerns over the continued escalation of conflicts.

Hon. Sidiki added that Africa needed to pay special attention to the complex competition between super powers for Africa’s resources, the spill-over from the Gulf crisis and their adverse impact on the continent in light of the competition between the global super powers that has manifested itself in the proliferation of ports along shared water spaces and militarization of some parts of Africa.

Hon. Joseph Yieleh CHIREH from Ghana cautioned that PAP should closely interrogate issues of security alongside the issue of opening borders for trade and free movement of people, calling MPs to speak strongly against terrorist elements because “the cost of doing business is calculated against the cost of security and peace. Security concerns arise because if we are to open our borders to allow free movement of persons, then we might be opening our borders to terrorist elements.”

On the other hand, Hon Bweupe Maxas Joel NG’ONGA from Zambia underscored that political transitions in Africa are becoming more and more violent and affecting peace in Africa. “Our youth are being used to propagate the agenda of those seeking power. Social media platforms are also posing a danger in our communities and circulation of falsehoods. The danger with unresolved conflict at any level is that it impedes development and depletes resources that might be put to good use fighting famine and disease,” he submitted.

Considering these threats to regional integration, Legislators resolved to keep track of all conflicts in Africa and to take to take the lead in resolution efforts for the smooth implementation of the AfCFTA.