Overcoming infrastructure deficit will unlock Africa’s potential, says Songwe

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 1, 2017 (ECA) - The 10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration (CRCI) officially kicked-off in Addis Ababa Wednesday with the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, saying Africa needs to address its infrastructure gaps if the continent is to unlock its economic potential through industrial development.

Citing an ECA report on Africa’s structural transfor­mation through inclusive economic growth and sustainable industrialization that will be reviewed by delegates attending the meeting, Ms. Songwe said the continent cannot meet its development, industrialisation and trade goals if its current infrastructure network was not improved.

“The consensus is that quality eco­nomic infrastructure in Africa is a catalyst to its industrial development. This is exemplified by current efforts that focus on scaling up infrastructure facilities at national and regional levels,” she told delegates.

“Furthermore, you will hear findings of a study that explores the infrastructure and industrialisation nexus, showing a bi-directional causality: firstly, how infrastructure assets contribute to industrial output and, secondly, how industrial ambition can set the path for targeted infrastructure development. The industrial output contribution of infrastructure facilities includes both direct and indirect channels,” said Ms. Songwe.

She said there was a good case to be made for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), especially as it seeks to promote intra-African trade and development.

The meeting, which is being held on the theme, “Implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area and shared Gains”, is seen as playing an important role in allowing member States and stakeholders to move forward on deepening existing regional integration processes on the continent.

“On the critical area of investment, implementation of initiatives for promoting regional investments by Regional Economic Communities (RECs), as well as the Continental Free Trade Area, need to be supported by all members States to achieve the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor that will create a veritable continental market. This will in itself be a true pull factor for investment into the continent,” she said.

Ms. Songwe noted that the discussions and outcomes of the 10th Session would go a long way in shaping not only the debate on these issues, but also in catalysing effective commitment and actions towards the realization of the objectives at national, regional and continental levels.

For his part, Ethiopia’s Trade Minister Bekele Gulado thanked the ECA and the African Union Commission, for the work they are doing in supporting Africa’s regional integration agenda and extolled participants to openly discuss the CFTA, its implementation and benefits for the continent, as well as the region’s strategic food and agricultural issues.

“The guiding principles of the CFTA that were adopted by our Heads of State should be accommodated so that the CFTA agreement shall be fully owned by all member States,” he said.   


Note to Editors:

This session of the CRCI will provide a platform for member States to deliberate on topical and important issues affecting the continent, including ways and means of promoting and accelerating the CFTA and thereby boosting intra-Africa trade and market integration, economic diversification, competitiveness, infrastructure, regional and continental value chains development, and the financing and investments needed to meet these strategic objectives.

The committee meets on a biennial basis to review the work undertaken by the ECA on regional integration and trade. It also uses the opportunity to review and deliberate on developments in specific sectoral areas and to make recommendations which are to guide the work of the Commission.

Present at this Session are trade policy experts, ministers, academia, partner organizations such as the African Union Commission, African Development Bank and representatives of UN agencies. 

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826
E-mail: eca-info@un.org