January 1st, 2021 marked the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. In ratifying the agreement, 34 African countries have created the largest free trade zone in the world by country participation. This is a historic point for the continent, it is the beginning of what is hoped will, at the very least, form a workable framework for a modern African economy. An African economy that will allow free movement of labor and goods within member States – a drastic change from the current siloed economic structures, and hopes to foster intra-African trade, industrialization and self-reliance.
Africa has also championed regional economic integration, but never at the level or scale of the AfCFTA and, indeed, not as successfully as in other world regions. African economic communities like ECOWAS, SADC, EAC and others, have failed to substantially integrate their disparate national economies which would have served to protect the region from exploitation by its neighbors to the east and the west.
With consumer population projections favouring Africa, and a combined consumer and business spending projection of $6.7 trillion by 2030,  the time is now for Africans to look inwards for solutions to the continent’s economic woes. The sports, media and entertainment industry is one space where the continent continues to show promise. African content competes favourably on the radio and streaming networks on a global scale, spurring key investments from media giants like Disney and Netflix. The continent is also a major contributor in the world sports industry particularly in consumption and talent exportation. The discussion must now revolve around the question of how the AfCFTA and intra-African collaboration can be best employed to secure these industries’ futures.
The answer: developing local industrialisation, production and distribution infrastructures for the consumption of sports, media and entertainment. This is key to the success of the AfCFTA in these industries. It will be near impossible to unlock the true value of this agreement without Africa first fixing its infrastructure deficit and this is relevant even beyond the sports and entertainment sectors. African countries must aim to localize its production and distribution processes as much as possible to control a larger part of the African market.