Participants to the 13th African Economic Conference have called for African countries to leverage the full range of their strengths and resources to accelerate the region’s drive towards continental integration.
The event organized by the United Nations development Programme, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank was themed;”Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development”
Hon. Claudine Uwera, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning told participants that Africa’s integration is no longer a choice. It’s a must for the continent and its people. In order for the continent to become a global player, it must integrate speedily.
During the event, Experts agreed that Africa needs self reliant approach that emphasizes intra-African trade that would not only help deepen regional economic integration, but also contribute significantly to economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction, and inflow of foreign direct investment.
Signed in March 2018 by 44 countries, the African Continental Free Trade Area is seen as the most ambitious effort to form what has the potential to be the world’s biggest free trade agreement which aims to create a single continental market of goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments across Africa.
Estimates are that if Africa were to increase its share of global trade from 2 to 3%, the one percentage point increase would result in an annual additional income of about US$70 billion.
Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Regional Director for Africa observed: “African countries need to collaborate more effectively in devising public policies that can create skills, foster innovation and technological advancement, facilitate labour mobility and access to productive assets including land and finance.”
Speaking to the urgency of ratifying the AfCFTA, Ms. Giovanie Biha, ECA Deputy Executive Secretary said: “It’s time to ratify AfCFTA, the more ambitious the liberalization, the higher will be the gains in terms of increase in GDP and exports.”
Experts also underscored that the continent’s economies needs to adopt innovative approaches to finance integration especially infrastructure development.
Gabriel Negatu, Director General of African Development Bank stated: “We are committed to continue supporting Africa’s integration agenda for it will lead to sustained growth and allow the continent to withstand external pressures; enable African companies to grow and become global giants.”