After months of delays caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, African countries have on Friday officially began trading under a new continent-wide free trade area.
During an online launch ceremony, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said “there is a new Africa emerging with a sense of urgency and purpose and an aspiration to become self-reliant.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
As a result of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the continent experts view the New Year’s Day launch as largely symbolic with full implementation of the deal expected to take years.
According to report by Reuters, backers say it will boost trade among African neighbours while allowing the continent to develop its own value chains. The World Bank estimates it could lift tens of millions out of poverty by 2035.
But obstacles – ranging from ubiquitous red tape and poor infrastructure to the entrenched protectionism of some of its members – must be overcome if the bloc is to reach its full potential.
Tunisia Arrests Hundreds As Riots Over Economic Crisis Enter Third Night
Continued protests in Tunisia have entered the fourth consecutive night on Sunday. Clashes between protesters and police were reported in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, and several other cities across the country. The protests began during the renewed start of covid-19 lockdown on Thursday.
Authorities say more than 200 persons have been arrested. Interior ministry spokesman, Khaled Hayouni, said earlier on Sunday, dozens of young people, mostly between 14 and 17 years old, had been arrested after they took to the streets during previous evenings, to loot and vandalize shops, banks and property.
The protesters weren’t making any clear demands. But there has been widespread dissatisfaction in Tunisia, about severe economic problems, rising prices, and thirty percent youth unemployment.
The country’s revolution 10 years ago ushered in democracy, but hopes that this would bring more jobs and opportunities have been dashed.
Some say these are not protests, because they are not held during the day, when faces are visible.
Despite the revolution a decade ago, many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and the political class, with high consumer prices, shrinking GDP and about a third of young people unemployed.
The health crisis and ensuing economic misery have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to seek to leave the country.
Videos circulating on social media showed young people burning tyres, insulting the police and looting shops.
Sousse, usually a magnet for foreign holidaymakers but hit hard by the pandemic, also saw rioting.
Tunisia had been under a night-time curfew even before the recent lockdown, a four-day measure meant to expire on Sunday at midnight.
Thousands Displaced By Heavy Rains, Flooding In Burundi
Heavy rains and flooding in Burundi have displaced thousands of people from their homes. Two regions, the Gatumba and Mutimbuzi, located very near to the nation`s capital, Bujumbura, have experienced heavy floods since Monday, last week after Rusizi River, (a tributary of Lake Tanganyika), overflowed causing havoc. Victims are now asking for protection.
Environmental experts, say, in addition to the effects of climate change, this situation is aggravated by poor land planning.
Flood victims are asking the government or other benefactors to build dikes to protect the Rusizi river from flooding their city. This is the second time the region has been affected by flooding in under a year. In May, floods reportedly displaced more than 27 thousand persons, majority of them still living in the displaced sites.
The national platform for risk prevention and disaster management has recommended that people be relocated from this border area.
Rwanda Closes Schools In Kigali Over COVID-19 Fears
Rwandan authorities have announced closure of nursery, primary and secondary schools in the capital, Kigali, over coronavirus fears as numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Education minister, Valentine Uwamariya, said the closure takes effect on Monday adding that schools in other provinces will also close if more cases are confirmed there.
Schools were reopened in November after eight months closure.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the country with more than 1,000 new cases and 22 fatalities reported in the last seven days. The government has ordered public hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients with their widely used community-based health insurance.
Rwanda has so far confirmed more than 11,000 cases and 142 deaths.