The High Representative of the African Union for Negotiations with Europe, Carlos Lopes, met this morning at the headquarters of CEOE with thirty sector representatives of Spanish companies, in a meeting that served to present the new African Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), a large African common market of goods and services for more than 1.2 billion people.

Lopes, who is in Madrid to present the Spanish edition of his book Africa in transformation, published in the Casa África essay collection, held this meeting to translate the effort that African countries are making to join in order to pass from the current 18% of intra-African trade to 52% through the elimination of customs tariffs and the integration of non-customs barriers.

The business meeting with Lopes was attended by the Deputy Director of CEOE International, Álvaro Schweinfurth; the general director for Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEC), Raimundo Robredo; Deputy Assistant Director General of Mediterranean Countries, Africa and the Middle East of the Secretary of State for Commerce, Mercedes Monedero; and the general manager of Casa África, José Segura. In addition, the main researcher of the Elcano Royal Institute for Sub-Saharan Africa, Ainhoa ​​Marín, intervened at the end of the presentation of Carlos Lopes and moderated a conversation between business representatives and the leader of the African Union.

The visit of the African economist, moreover, takes place a few days before the African Union Summit, which in Niamey (Niger) will be devoted exclusively to the development of the AFCFTA, an area that 51 of the 54 African countries have already signed. 24 countries ratified. Lopes said that if the advance by the president of Nigeria, Mohamadu Buhari, is fulfilled, the giant African country will announce its adhesion to AFCFTA during the summit, which is the definitive accolade to this great African commercial area.

The conversation with Carlos Lopes also focused on the end of the Cotonou Agreement next year 2020, and the need to negotiate a new large trade agreement between the European continent and the African continent. In this regard, Lopes, who will lead these negotiations with Europe from the African Union, made it clear that Africa's preference is to negotiate an agreement between continents outside the ACP framework, given that with the AFCFTA the African Union is already a valid actor and Unitary voice with which to negotiate, given that all the EPAs, the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and various regions of Africa, are currently under negotiation but with the blockade and the reluctance of many African countries.

On the part of the CEOE, Alvaro Schweinfurth, recalled that Spanish companies look with increasing interest to the African continent, something that is evident in figures such as that Spanish exports already reach 18,000 million euros or that African products are imported to our country by value of 27,000 million euros, with dominance of energy products. The pending issue, he recalled, are the investments, which are growing every year and are currently worth 4,300 million, but still very concentrated in North Africa, with the exception of a significant presence in South Africa.

The Director General of Africa, Raimundo Robredo, congratulated on his part the effort made by the AU in its approval of AFCFTA, and recalled that it is so important the abolition of tariffs as also the unification of non-tariff barriers and, in addition, the one of the infrastructures.

Deputy Assistant Director General of Mediterranean Countries, Africa and the Middle East of the Secretary of State for Trade, Mercedes Monedero, the objective is to increase investment and Mobilize the private sector to take advantage of the economic potential of Africa. He spoke of promoting strategic investments, in addition to guarantees, and diversifying trade, since it is an important factor for regional integration.

For his part, the general director of Casa África, José Segura, highlighted the importance of this Free Trade Agreement in Continental Africa, which he hopes will be accompanied by infrastructures, especially maritime and port. He also highlighted the content of the Lopes book, which Casa África is going to present today at the AECID headquarters, entitled "Africa in transformation: economic development in the age of doubt".

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