The Futures Report 2021

The 2021 Edition of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Futures Report – Which Value
Chains for a Made in Africa Revolution? – is a joint publication of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) and the AfCFTA Secretariat. The Report was prepared under the overall guidance of Ahunna Eziakonwa – UNDP Assistant Secretary General in charge of Africa, and Wamkele Mene –
Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat.


As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic and coalesces around a growing impetus for environmental protection, and as trading and investing within the AfCFTA begins in earnest, this publication’s timeliness and breadth will truly serve as a vade mecum for economic operators. The AfCFTA provides a single continental trade and investment system that is stable, predictable and rules-based, underpinned by oversight institutions. A robust, modern and comprehensive arrangement covering the broad spectrum of trade and investment, the AfCFTA is part of the current global zeitgeist in which industrial policy is at the core of social economic transformation and sustainable development.


Market openings significantly boost trade and economic growth, but the AfCFTA’s unique contribution is to the economic transformation of Africa – a much needed factor to create higher quality trade. Without structural change, the continent is less likely to address the persistent challenge of poverty, unemployment and the economic marginalization of women and youth. The ability for the AfCFTA to drive this transformation in Africa is partly dependent on the successful transition from current inward-looking approaches to trade and investment towards the strengthening of RVCs where different segments of the industry VCs are located across the region reflecting local comparative advantage. RVCs enable countries to combine their comparative and competitive advantages to participate in industries from which they would likely be excluded if they relied only on their own capability sets. RVCs enable the emergence of specialized agglomerations which are essential for effective participation in higher value sectors with rapidly changing technologies and attendant skill sets, and they facilitate the development of economies of scale.

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