Business Finance Government

How the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) promises to improve labour mobility, spur wealth creation in Africa



The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed on 21st March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, by 44 out of the 55 African countries, and brokered by the African Union (AU). This agreement was born of the realisation that total trade exports from Africa to the rest of the world are estimated at USD 760 billion; however, this is mostly in the form of raw materials and thus prevents Africa from deriving the true value of such exports. Considering that African exports to the world make up only 3% of the total world trade value, there exists much scope for improvement.

No wonder then, in a 2020 report, the World Bank estimated that by 2035, real income gains from full implementation of the agreement could be 7%, or nearly USD 450 billion, while predicting that the agreement could contribute to lifting an additional 30m people from extreme poverty and 68m people from moderate poverty. Against this backdrop, it is clear that the AfCFTA has the potential to make a significant impact on improving the livelihoods of the African people, by boosting intra-African trade and generating new employment opportunities on an integrated African labour market.

In a follow-up report ( published in June 2022, the World Bank listed other potential benefits of the AfCFTA on labour including higher-paid, better-quality jobs, especially for women; as well as wage rises of 11.2% for women and 9.8% for men by 2035. Policymakers say that the free movement of labour will be a key contributor to the successful functioning of the free trade area and realising the above benefits for workers.

“Let us now dig deeper into why the labour mobility promised under the AfCFTA is important for Africa’s development and how it can be achieved towards bettering local livelihoods and ensuring sustainable wealth creation in Africa” says Margaret Soi, Head of Cross Border Banking at Bank One.

Why labour mobility stands to benefit Africa – across host and native countries

There is no denying that labour migration is good for trade and economic development, especially in developing countries, with free movement of people benefitting both the host country and the country of origin.

Financial institutions like Bank One can support the growth and needs of such skilled professionals by extending to them best-in-class cross-border banking solutions

The benefits of free movement of people within Africa can be grouped under the following five distinct categories:

  1. Boosting trade and tourism: Free movement of people can boost both trade and tourism. For instance, Rwanda saw cross-border trade with Kenya and Uganda increase by 50% on the back of easing travel requirements to just identification cards for neighbouring countries in 2013. Also, tourism in the Seychelles increased by a significant 7% per year between 2009 and 2014, when it abolished visas for African nationals.
  2. Bridging skill and labour gaps: There could be situations where certain countries have particular skills in excess while others lack the same skillset. Allowing free movement of labour will enable host countries to find such scarce skills at potentially lower rates than attracting talent from developed countries, while easing demographic pressure in the countries of origin. Further, the productivity enhancements that accrue from such skilled workers will boost economic growth and per-capita income. For instance, while immigrants only make up 10% of Côte d’Ivoire’s population, which hosts the second-highest number of immigrants in Africa, they make up 19% of GDP.
  3. Spurring local employment: While it may appear counterintuitive as migrant workers compete for jobs with nationals, their presence actually stimulates local employment too. For instance, in South Africa, it was seen that recently arrived migrants positively impacted native employment rates and wages, and their presence resulted in lower unemployment. Taking a wider example, the creation of the EU and free movement within has lowered the average unemployment rate in Europe by 6%.
  4. Boosting government revenues: The employment of migrant workers in the formal economy of host countries can have a significant positive effect on the public finances via taxes. For instance, migrant workers pay on average three times more tax than the citizens of Rwanda. In Ghana, local workers only cover 70-80% of expenditures made in their favour, while migrant workers pay up to 159% of government expenditure on them.
  5. Rise in remittances and knowledge transfer to countries of origin: Finally, labour mobility benefits the native country of the migrant worker through its impact on remittances and knowledge transfer. When migrant workers start working across borders, there is a corresponding rise in remittances to their home countries; to illustrate, African migrant workers sent about USD 85 Billion to their families in 2019. Crucially, intra-African remittances tend to reduce poverty even more, because regional migrants tend to have poorer families than those who leave to work on other continents. Closing the circle, when such migrant workers return home finally, they often use their deepened skills and wealth creation to support their economies and spur employment by establishing startups or investing in enterprises – and engaging in a much-needed transfer of knowledge in the process.


Effects of intracontinental labour mobility on labour standards and wealth creation

“As a natural corollary to the AfCFTA’s beneficial effect on access to scarce skillsets in destination countries, the ease of movement of labour facilitated by the AfCFTA has also seen some host countries losing out on talent if their needs are not met. This is likely to result in a rise in labour standards across the region as countries compete with each other to retain the most skilled workers” explains Margaret Soi.

Significantly, the much-needed labour mobility in an African context has seen the growth of a new class of individuals who have an appetite to grow, maintain and preserve their wealth through sustainable investment solutions both locally and across borders. At a pan-African level, this has spurred an increased demand for cross-border banking through digital channels by these highly skilled professionals who now enjoy the added advantage of mobility to transform their livelihoods. Indeed, such professionals are well poised to join a rising class of mass affluent customers living and working in Africa – a segment that Bank One is ideally placed to serve through the combined footprint of our two shareholders, Mauritian conglomerate CIEL Ltd and Kenya-based I&M Group PLC.

Margaret adds “Financial institutions like Bank One can support the growth and needs of such skilled professionals by extending to them best-in-class cross-border banking solutions such as the recent award-winning, innovative cross-border banking value proposition under our Offshore Elite Banking Unit. At Bank One, we have a slew of best-in-class banking solutions enabling us to offer services targeted to such mass affluent customers across sub-Saharan Africa, such as:

  1. Cross-border transactions: Secured offshore transactional capabilities for Foreign Currency banking across multiple currencies and geographies.
  2. Advisory: Trusted advice on structuring investments, managing wealth, and accessing secured financing facilities.
  3. Wealth Management: Dedicated and experienced offshore banking Relationship Managers covering both Francophone and Anglophone clients.
  4. Digital banking: Efficient digital banking services for accounts and investments including an award-winning custody platform and best in class FX services.


Future forward: Committing to labour mobility for a brighter future for all

Soberingly enough despite the plethora of benefits that can be derived from intracontinental labour mobility, not all African countries are committed to the concept. Alongside the signing of the AfCFTA agreement and supporting the Kigali Declaration, while 32 African nations had signed the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons (which seeks to establish a visa-free zone within the AfCFTA countries) by January 2022, only four countries–Rwanda, Niger, Mali and São Tomé and Principe – have ratified it. Most crucially, Nigeria and South Africa, the two largest economies of Africa, have not signed or ratified the agreement.

Thus, more than one year on since the launch of the AfCFTA, it is becoming increasingly clear that its full potential will not be unlocked if we do not improve the continent’s labour mobility to ensure that the right skills are available at the right place and the right time. Indeed, it is only by ensuring free movement of people and labour across the continent that we can enhance economic growth, allow firms to find much needed skills faster, boost productivity, and enable wealth creation by allowing Africans to trade more with fellow Africans.



By Margaret Soi, Head of Cross Border Banking at Bank One Limited (

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Agriculture Business Featured Finance News Society Sponsored Technology Telecoms




Information technology is a driver of any sector and boosts productivity; agriculture inclusive. In a bid to ensure that food production and security are improved, AFRIMASH Company Limited, an indigenous agriculture eCommerce platform has introduced a ground-breaking USSD technology and Agent Network system for farmers to have access to farm inputs at the click of a button. The Company has been described as innovative and the first of its kind in the country by industry watchers and stakeholders. Afrimash is positioned to improve the way farmers are engaged in the rural parts of the country using these two technologies.

Our USSD code, *2282*2#, and Agent Network System are unique in the Agri-tech ecosystem and are posed as solutions to the challenges farmers face in rural communities. Speaking to the media on the importance of the newly introduced USSD technology, Ayoade Ahmed Oyedotun, the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Afrimash…

Read More
Business Events Investments News Society Technology Trends






Fintrak Software Limited, an indigenous financial technology firm based in Lagos with an international footprint in various African country recently held banking and financial industry of Rwanda in awe with the reintroduction of their solution known as ENTERPRISE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION. A software application that is designed for businesses to boost productivity and reduce human error in all the areas of their enterprise. The Fintech also presented their credit management solution known as CREDIT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION, the event was held at the KIGALI MARRIOT HOTEL, in the Rwandan capital City.

Speaking to the Rwanda financial ecosystem, the company described the Credit management solution as a software that was designed to help banks meet the need to identify, measure, monitor and control credit risk as well as to determine that they hold adequate capital against these risks and that they are adequately compensated for risks incurred. The Credit Risk 360 solution…

Read More
Announcements Business Finance Gadgets Technology Technology Trends Trends

Binance Announces Global Advisory Board


Binance (, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, is pleased to announce the creation of its new Global Advisory Board (GAB), comprised of distinguished experts in public policy, government, finance, economics, and corporate governance.


The Global Advisory Board, chaired by former US Senator and Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, recently convened in Paris, France. The board’s purpose is to advise Binance on some of the most complex regulatory, political, and social issues the entire crypto industry faces as it grows and evolves at a fast pace.

“For the past five years, Binance has been at the forefront of pioneering the exciting new world of crypto, blockchain, and Web3,” said Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao. “In that time, we’ve tackled complex issues no one even knew existed. We’ve maintained our focus throughout on delivering compliance solutions that protect the interests of crypto users, while keeping…

Read More
Business Fashion Society Sponsored Tourism Travels Trends

Africana X plosion – From Nigeria to the World; Africana set standards for success in Africa


The merry sound of clinking glasses, hearty laughter and afrobeats music permeated the cool September evening at Rue Marconi Zone 4, a posh business district in the Ivorien port city of Abidjan. The motley crowd of extremely well and colourfully dressed individuals gathered at the brilliantly lit venue were celebrating the grand opening of an Africana X ( flagship store – the first of its kind outside of Nigeria.



By establishing this new store in Abidjan, a city that widely reflects the culture of French speaking West Africa, the Africana ( brand made significant statement of intent – that they are taking the lead in the movement to propagate African fashion on a global scale.

Perhaps, this explains…

Read More
Announcements Business Education Events Featured Investments News Society Tourism Travels Trends





The need for people to have international exposure in today’s highly competitive workplace becomes important and imminent. This has made a lot of Nigerians to think of schooling in reputable international universities that will avail them the great opportunities of modern workplace and globalized world. In line with this narrative, Think Canada Fair is bringing to Nigerians that are willing to utilize the opportunities of schooling in Canada a platform with Canada 2023 at Nigeria’s Biggest Study Fair this October.

The Think Canada Fair is bringing together an array of top Canadian Universities, alongside their representatives, to the biggest study fair in Nigeria. Happening across 3 major cities in Nigeria, the annual event is scheduled to be held in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt on October: 14th, 15th, 18th and 20th 2022 respectively.

Speaking to the media in a press conference, the Marketing Manager, Femi Olatunji said, “we are looking forward…

Read More
Business Events Health Interviews News Opinion Society




Baby formula has been expensive and one of the biggest fear that new parents have. In short in Nigeria they will tell you that one should use protection because the cost of NAN and other cereal is expensive. Having seen and noticed the plight of Nigerian in terms of feeding their infants with good foods that are created specifically for the Nigerian infants. Roberta Edu, a serial businesswoman and a core IT expert established Moppet to cater for these sets of Nigerians.

Just after a year of doing business. A business that came up during the COVID 19 lock down when shops where closed and there is need to feed kids. Being a mother Roberta researched on the best way to feed her lovely child when the shops and malls are closed. She came up with Moppet. A business born out of idea and COVID 19 lock down.

Speaking on the…

Read More
Business Investments News Security Society Technology Technology Trends

Ukheshe and Digital PayGo drive Zambian business growth through the SME in-a-box Merchant Solution


Ukheshe’s SME in-a-box solution is making tangible changes to the lives of millions in Zambia through a partnership with Digital PayGo, improving financial inclusion and enhancing business dealings for entrepreneurs.

Digital PayGo, a local Zambian fintech driving a mobile-first approach, enhancing the digital payment space for SMEs, is the first partner to utilise Ukheshe’s SME in-a-box solution to its fullest extent and provides a range of virtual financial services to its customers.

“We’re so proud to be the technology partner enabling Digital PayGo in their partnership with Zambian bank Zanaco and Mastercard to implement this solution,” says Mark Dankworth, President of Business Development in Africa at Ukheshe.

“In line with Mastercard’s vision of enabling 50 million SMEs by 2025, the relationship between Ukheshe and Digital PayGo was a natural fit, given our shared…

Read More
Business Society Technology




The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has continued to display its commitment to the sustainability of a digitally transformed Nigeria by engaging the workforce of various Federal Public Institutions (FPIs) in capacity development programmes to create a digitally formidable federal public service towards the realization of a digital Nigeria.

This was revealed at the closing ceremony of a capacity-building programme organised by NITDA for 100 participants from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Military and Paramilitary agencies who were trained on Digital Literacy and Skills, Cybersecurity Essentials and Cloud Computing.

Giving his closing remark at the event, the NITDA Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa CCIE expressed his pleasure at the participants for their active participation and contribution to class activities throughout the programme while urging them to be good ambassadors of the knowledge gained in their various organisations.

The DG who…

Read More