The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be a catalyst to stimulate recovery, accelerate trade and industrialization, and build resilience into the African economy, Economic Commission for Africa Acting Executive Secretary Antonio Pedro said.
Addressing the 42nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, the acting executive secretary said “we believe that the AfCFTA can be a catalyst to stimulate recovery, accelerate trade and industrialization, and build resilience into the African economy.”
The AfCFTA continental market provides economy of scale to invest in manufacturing, leading to increased intra-Africa trade, thereby bringing supply chains closer to home and injecting a degree of self-sufficiency in essential products such as medicines, food and fertilizers, Pedro noted.
By providing more opportunities for women and the youth, the AfCFTA helps reduce inequality and poverty, and improves inclusion, he added.
”Indeed, our member States agreed to establish the AfCFTA in the first place precisely because they saw these opportunities and had the determination to seize them. The progress in the AfCFTA represents an extraordinary feat of diplomacy and statesmanship and deserves commendation and provide good reasons for hope.”
Yet, challenges remain, he stated, adding that two in particular need immediate attention, ratification and implementation.
“First, 10 member states have not yet ratified the agreement and we should not leave them behind. I appeal to them to do so soon. Second, it will soon be four years since the AfCFTA came into force. Regrettably, these four years also presented Africa with multiple shocks. Only through an accelerated and effective implementation of the AfCFTA can Africa build sufficient shock absorbers to build resilience.”
Pedro expressed his hope that the new protocols on competition policy, intellectual property rights and investment that have been negotiated over the past couple of years will be adopted by the assembly at its current session.
As always, ECA will be there to support efforts to expedite signing and ratification of these important instruments by our member states, he pointed out.
”As we fast track the implementation of the AfCFTA, our resource-based industrialization should focus on value additions, smart operationalization of local content policies and tapping better into global value chains. To this end, ECA has supported the Battery and Electric Vehicle initiative that could enable the continent to tap into a global value expected to reach USD 8.8 trillion in the next three years and USD 46 trillion by 2050.”
According to him, ECA is ”proud to work with Afreximbank and other partners in support of the Battery Value Chain, with strong political will from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.”
Moreover, ECA has partnered with stakeholders in this room supporting the transboundary agro-industry park and special economic zone involving Zambia and Zimbabwe. This initiative could address the food security concerns through deeper value chains and tap into Africa’s food import market valued at about USD 90 billion per year.
By fast tracking the implementation of the AfCFTA, Pedro stated that “we will not only be benefiting Africa. Rather, we put Africa in a position to provide solutions to the global challenges of supply chain disruptions, food insecurity, climate change and migration.”
The acting secretary pointed out that ”even if we haven’t created any of the global problems, we can provide solutions for them. Converting challenges to opportunities and rebuilding our resilience, that’s the Africa we want.”
He further stressed that “we know and we believe that this century belongs to us and I can confidently say: It’s time for Africa!”
Pedro concluded: ”We could say that the worst is over. But it is not. Even when Africa appears as a shining light with economic growth of 3.9% in 2023 and 2024, higher than many other regions, it isn’t high enough to compensate for the losses experienced in the past 3 years. All these factors underscore the importance of building resilience through strategic foresight and innovative ideas.”