Congo gears towards continental trade strategy

Yaounde, 7 May 2019 (ECA) – Various stakeholders of the Republic of Congo have called on their Government to improve the institutional framework conducive to transformation and economic growth, to benefit from the Republic of Congo's membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). 
The call was made during an information and awareness-raising forum on the AfCFTA in the Republic of Congo, held recently in Pointe Noire, thanks to a partnership between the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Ministry of Trade, Supplies and Consumption of the Republic of Congo, in conjunction with the ECCAS Secretariat and the European Union. 
Some 60 participants in the forum, held just a few months after ratification of the African Common Market Agreement by the Congo, also stressed the importance of focusing on the development of technical and vocational skills with a view to building qualified human capital to attract local and foreign investment.
According to these public and private sector actors, supported by members of the academia and civil society of the Congo, the AfCFTA is welcome but, considering the challenges faced in the country's development landscape, everything should be done to develop skilled labour capable of guiding transformation towards more productive jobs and high value added and competitive products on the African and global markets.
Mr Mamadou Malick Bal, representative of the Director of the ECA’s Subregional Office for Central Africa, told Forum participants that "the AfCFTA is part of this context of imperative structural transformation of African economies".
For Mr Bal, "the good news about intra-African trade is that it is much more sophisticated than the trade between Africa and the rest of the world." 
"Indeed, whereas Africa exports mainly raw materials to the rest of the world, it exports manufactured goods to Africa," he added, before concluding that "this is encouraging, and implies that the demand is there, that there are African consumers for African products" and that Congo must strive to meet this demand. 
Opening the Forum on behalf of the Minister of State, Minister of Trade, Supplies and Consumption of Congo, Mr Mpemba Victor commented that "Our country must avoid remaining a mere receptacle. To achieve this, it will have to take advantage of the moment to acquire infrastructures that will help it to produce and benefit fully from this great African market."
After ratifying it, "it is now up to the Congo, like the other States, to develop a national strategy for the implementation of this Agreement, aimed at putting in place targeted measures to support the productive sector", he stated, in agreement with his interlocutor of ECA and other participants.
According to Mr Bal from ECA, the recommendations made during the Pointe Noire forum are a vital contribution to the elaboration of the Congo's national strategy for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA Agreement commits African countries to eliminate customs tariffs on 90% of the goods they produce in their trade on the continent. 
The Area is a potential market of 1.2 billion consumers, which could grow to 2.5 billion consumers by 2050, and corresponds to a continental GDP of about $ 2.5 trillion, which could reach $ 3 trillion in the next few years.
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