Addis Ababa, 15 December 2020 (ECA) – Africa has a unique opportunity to dismantle its inherited colonial economic structure with a massive scale industrial development under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Secretary General Mr. Wamkele Mene said.
Speaking at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s AfCFTA implementation strategy meeting in Kinshasa on 15 December, Mr. Mene said as a result of the low level of trade among African countries, the continent has continued to provide other regions of the world with primary commodities for producing finished goods which they then sell to the continent at much higher prices.
But a massive industrial development would create regional value chains that would free the continent from the colonial system in place for up to 60 years that makes the continent vulnerable, he said.
Due to its inability to produce those goods, Africa suffers whenever global trade supplies are disrupted such as in the current COVID-19 pandemic, said Mr. Mene.
“All of these materials that we require to fight COVID-19 we import them: the germs-killing products, the medications, the ventilators; we import all of that,” he said.
But he said to industrialize was a difficult process requiring disciplined, dedicated implementation of its industrial development strategy: “All of us know that industrialization is not a pill that you swallow and the next day you have industrialized.”
According to him, “we have got to start somewhere to industrialize this continent to place ourselves on a trajectory for value added production, massive scale manufacturing and job creation so that young Africans don’t have to go to Europe in search of better lives.”
The Secretary General praised Africa’s leaders for their unprecedented commitment and political will to the trade bloc in the five years since negotiations leading to its creation began.
The AfCFTA will be a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion and constitute a significant milestone towards the realization of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for the socio-economic transformation of the continent as well as the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
The agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries -- the minimum number required under the treaty -- out of the 54 that agreed to be members of the bloc. To date, 34 countries have ratified the agreement. Eritrea is the only country which has yet to make any commitment to the continental body.
Trading was originally scheduled to start on 1 July this year but it was postponed for six months to 1 January next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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