Nairobi, 22 January 2024 (ECA) - Africa renews its call to action as experts and government representatives gather to discuss the use of national and regional strategies for effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The conference, titled “AfCFTA Implementation Strategies: Towards an Implementation Peer Learning Community,” took place from January 15 to 17, 2024, and was organized by ECA in partnership with the AfCFTA Secretariat and UNDP.
Speaking at the conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), emphasized the transformative potential of AfCFTA for the continent.
“The AfCFTA holds the promise for our continent to overcome the colonial legacy of small and fragmented markets and replace them with a single market of over 1.4 billion people with a collective GDP close to USD 3 trillion,” said Mr Karingi.
However, he highlighted that the realization of this promise hinges on the effective implementation of the commitments undertaken by AfCFTA State Parties. Mr Karingi called on AfCFTA State Parties to adopt an urgent and expedited approach to implementing AfCFTA strategies, noting:
“Implementation is primarily a national responsibility. Therefore, Governments must also be ready to finance the complementary policies and investments, especially from domestic resources, for its success.”
This, he added, will foster the “much desired diversification of African economies, creating resilience to withstand economic, health and food security shocks.”
ECA has supported over 30 countries and two regional economic communities (RECs) to develop and validate their national/regional AfCFTA implementation strategies. Four other countries and three RECs are at advanced stages in the development of their strategies with ECA’s support, while a further 13 are at early stages of the process.
His Excellency Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals described AfCFTA as a “launchpad” for deeper continental integration. He envisioned the conference as a platform to fast-track policy innovation and facilitate dialogue on investment flows to Africa.
Stephen Jackson, UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya, commended the idea of a peer-learning platform on AfCFTA implementation, stating, “If we fail to maximize the opportunity to knit Africa together economically, then we will fail the Sustainable Development agenda, leaving large populations within large parts of the continent behind.”
Joseph Rotich, Acting Director for International Cooperation in the Kenyan Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry, emphasized that the AfCFTA’s success depends on transparency, active participation, and a willingness amongst all of us to learn from one another and to adapt.
Prudence Sebahizi, Director of Institutional Matters and Programmes Coordination at the AfCFTA Secretariat, speaking on behalf of His Excellency Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, emphasized the crucial role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in connecting national efforts and fostering regional trade. He also commended the idea of a peer-learning platform, stating that future initiatives would be conducted through a formal platform established by the AfCFTA Council of Ministers in the form of the Committee of Focal Persons representing National AfCFTA Implementation Committees.
The conference concluded with a unanimous agreement to raise awareness among the private sector about AfCFTA, involving more SMEs, women, and youth.
The commitment is clear: systematically involve the private sector in AfCFTA strategy development, ensuring a comprehensive approach to continental economic transformation.
AfCFTA implementation strategies play a crucial role in translating continental commitments into national laws, regulations, and administrative processes, providing practical guidelines and roadmaps to unlock emerging opportunities in the integrated African market.
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