Building an African Digital Economy: ECA signs agreement with EU to accelerate creation of one market

Addis Ababa, 18 December 2018 (ECA) - On the margins of the Africa-Europe conference which took place in Vienna Tuesday, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the European Union signed a €3million agreement aimed at supporting national implementation strategies for the continental free trade area. The establishment of an African trade observatory is also planned, and will be a key pillar of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The agreement was signed by the ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.

Ms Songwe also spoke at the high level segment of the Conference, which was holding on the theme: Taking development Cooperation on to the digital age. In her statement, she stressed the need for harmonization as part of the integration process. “The SDGs demand that we take development to the digital age. We must also integrate the Continent digitally for a more diversified and prosperous Africa,” she said.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is one of the key priorities of Africa´s Agenda 2063 and a flagship project for the continent. Signed by 49 African countries and 14 countries have ratified and 8 more are needed to reach the threshold of 22

The AfCFTA aims at providing a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments. Its goal is to accelerate Intra-Africa trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation. Through these measures, the establishment of the AfCFTA is expected to gather impetus to boost economic growth and attract investments from both within Africa and the world. 

The EU has been supporting the AfCFTA negotiations processes since inception.


Note to Editors 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was formally established in March 2018 at the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda. It is one of the key priorities of the Africa Agenda 2063 and a major step towards African continental economic integration. It also featured highly in the political declaration of the fifth AU-EU Summit of Abidjan.

The potential gains from increased regional and economic integration are substantial for Africa, as the continent has the lowest percentage of intraregional trade. Only 15% of exports take place within Africa, compared with 25% in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and over 60% in the EU. In addition, exports are often limited to natural resources with little added value from other sectors of the economies

The support to the African continental free trade agreement is one of the pillars of the recently launched Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The Alliance aims to deepen economic and trade relations between Africa and Europe.

The final aim is to support regional economic integration in Africa, to achieve markets that are more integrated, promote intra-regional trade, develop Africa’s investment and productive capacity, create decent jobs and improve inter-regional economic infrastructure.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826