Yaoundé, 7 July, 2017 (ECA) - The sub-regional office of the Economic Commission for Africa in Central Africa (ECA SRO-CA) on July 6, 2017, organized a webinar on the importance of building efficient industries to ensure sustainable economic development in the sub region. The event took place at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC).
The webinar, which drew panelists from government, academia and the private sector, is part of activities leading up to the 33rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE2017) scheduled for 26-29 September 2017 in Douala, as stated by Antonio Pedro, Director of ECA SRO-CA.
“This webinar is one of many events we organize to build momentum and galvanize interest in ICE2017.”
ICE 2017 will take place under the theme, “Made in Central Africa: from the vicious to the virtuous circle.” It was within the framework of this theme, therefore, that discussions during the webinar focused on the interconnections between trade and industrialization; tariff and non-tariff barriers to intra-regional trade; expected impact of EPAs on intra-regional trade; and opportunities offered by the ECCAS Free Trade Area for the development of intra-regional trade in local products.
Mr. Pedro said he was impressed by the dynamism and passion demonstrated by panelists during the discussions, adding, “They made very pertinent arguments relating to trade and industrialization in Central Africa.”
Narcisse Chassem, a private sector representative on the panel, deplored the fact that most industrial products consumed in Central Africa are imported.
“Africa’s role in international trade over the past 50 years has been that of producing and exporting raw materials while importing and consuming finished products from abroad. There can’t be any significant intra-Africa trade when we all are busy exporting raw materials. There is urgent need for political will and action to stop this trend in order for the sub region to industrialize.”
This view was reiterated by another panelist, Bounoung Fouda Boniface - a lecturer at IRIC – who added that, “we need to change the mindset where imported goods are considered more important than our own products. Consuming things made in our country is one way of promoting local industries.”
For his part, the Secretary General of Cameroon’s Ministry of Commerce, Bassilekin III Achille, told co-panelists that his government has made “massive investments in energy and road infrastructure” as way of enhancing industrialization and trade.”
However, there was consensus amongst the panel members that Central Africa still has a long way to go in terms of road infrastructure, which they all admitted is crucial for industrialization and trade.
This event comes just two days after another ECA webinar titled, “Industrial Policies in Central Africa: current state, future prospects.”
Participants praised ECA for the webinar, which many described as a “rare opportunity for intellectual exchange on serious economic issues in Central Africa.”
Mr. Pedro expressed gratitude to panelists and audience of both webinars, adding that “these are very topical and urgent issues and we look forward to a more robust debate during ICE2017 in Douala.”
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