This article appeared in the July 10, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Ideal of free trade endures – in Africa

Nigeria Presidency/Reuters
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signs an agreement ahead of the lauching of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), during African Union summit in Niamey, Niger July 7, 2019.

Welcome to the Monitor Daily. Today's lineup includes a new legal challenge to “Obamacare,” the view from inside an abortion clinic, the quandary of immigration in a depopulating Japan, empowerment in Kenya, and a model of hope in the opioid crisis.

But first, at a time when a lot of the news in global economics is about rising tariffs and risks of trade war, here’s something completely different. It’s about Africa coming together – and it’s about the relevance of open trade as a lever of progress, even when globalization has lost its former shine

This week marks the formal launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which ultimately promises a free-trade zone for 1.2 billion people in more than 50 nations. Already, it represents transformed attitudes for many countries. 

“We are creating a new Africa. The Africa of dependence, we are putting it behind us.” That’s the aspiration as voiced recently by Albert Muchanga, African Union commissioner for the Department of Trade and Industry.

African nations currently have a very low rate of trade with one another. Most exports remain raw materials like oil and minerals. Freer trade won’t be a panacea for development challenges that range from poor infrastructure to corruption. But a key holdout nation, Nigeria, has signed on alongside smaller nations in the hope of developing the continent both from within and through external trade.

“When you do agro-processing Africa is going to transform itself from a net importer of food to a net exporter of food,” Mr. Muchanga predicts. He says, “It’s a cultural mindset that this is impossible. Nelson Mandela said, ‘It seems impossible until it’s done.’”

Also, before today’s stories, a quick promo: The Monitor is following the sex-trafficking allegations against multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and the pressure on Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign over his handling of those allegations in his past career as a U.S. attorney. Stay tuned for our coverage.

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This article appeared in the July 10, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 07/10 edition