On 17th February 2022, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Economic Policy Competence Centre organized a webinar on Free Trade and Employment Creation in Sub-Saharan Africa. The webinar created the space for the Academia, Trade Unions, and CSOs to discuss with the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat the opportunities the free trade could create and the conditions under which these opportunities could be inclusively harnessed.
The unemployment situation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is alarmingly high among the youth and women in Africa. Several policies have been designed to curb this situation. While governments explore alternatives to curtail this trend, the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) may offer some potential for economic growth and, thus, new employment perspectives. The World Bank estimates that AfCFTA could boost regional income by 7 per cent, speed up wage growth for women, and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.
However, it is not clear to what extent structural lags, limited labour sophistication, weak industrial base, and uncoordinated policies may hinder harnessing the gains of AfCFTA. Also, free trade may negatively affect some regions – jobs coulb be lost, informality can rise, and conflicts will erupt. Free trade tends to produce losers and winners. How are different stakeholders positioning themselves toward the potential of free trade and the implementation of AfCFTA?
The FES EPCC online seminar on free trade and employment provided the space to discuss policy alternatives from Academia, Trade Unions, CSOs and other societal stakeholders from the region.