By Chinwendu Obienyi

Since the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is aimed at establishing a single continental market for goods and services, it presents a chance to de-fragment the African market by enhancing competitiveness and serving as a vehicle to support the achievement of the Social Development Goals (SDGs).

According to senior representatives and industry stakeholders and who spoke at the African trade roundtable themed; Developing the Interior Design Trade and Services Market through the AFCFTA, organized by the Design Week Lagos (DWL) held in Lagos recently, the AfCFTA is expected to eliminate up to 90 per cent of tariffs and allow free movement of labor, thus, advancing Africa’s industrialization and enhancing the overall economies of scale of the countries involved.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer, the Executive committee of International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), Shashi Caan, said the IFI is looking at initiatives to bring up structures or draft out policies that will grow the design industry. She noted that education and research is the key to this, while adding that it is evident that the objectives of the AfCFTA will not be achieved in the absence of structural and systemic assimilation of the goals and rules of the regime.

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“How we integrate the foundational knowledge, life application to interior designs is down to efficient education. And so, this forum is set on collaborative solutions to the current challenges in the furniture, fixtures, and design ecosystem and to further encourage intra-Africa trade. There is need to elevate the design profession especially as AfCFTA is being implemented as this will result to better trade in designs and services and present a chance to defragment the African market, thus enhancing competitiveness and serving as a vehicle to support the achievement of the SDGs”, Caan said.

Corroborating Caan, the Associate Dean Professor, Interior Design at RMIT University, Australia, Dr Suzie Attiwill, said that the implementation of the AfCFTA would, undoubtedly, lead to cross-border disputes between states, businesses and service providers.

According to her, given the significant divergence in the approaches to the subject of international commercial law in Africa coupled with the complex political economy surrounding it, the idea of a common market can only materialise if certain concrete interventions are made in response to the new framework of the AfCFTA. The forum also witnessed the launch of the ID Buyers Guide App, an all-in-one online marketplace for products and services and a social network for trade and consumers to search, discover and buy interior design products and services within Africa.