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Sudan counts on its workforce, agriculture, industry to ride AfCFTA

Sudan has begun thinking about and planning how to become competitive using its strong points as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) opens up borders to intra-African trade from January 1.

An economic awakening of the African continent requires intra-continental trade and the AfCFTA is designed to bring down barriers and allow the free flow of people, goods and services across the borders of African countries.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) office for North Africa, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Republic of Sudan and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (IITFC) have launched a stakeholder dialogue on AfCFTA to work out a framework for joint, practical efforts that will give Sudan a fighting chance.

“We need to work together and in a very practical way so as to ensure Sudan benefits from the AfCFTA and makes the most of its strong points – its workforce, its agriculture and industry – to increase exports to African countries,” said Khaled Hussein, interim director of the ECA Office for North Africa.

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Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence.

The government of Sudan gave its blessing to an independent South Sudan, where the mainly Christian and traditional religion practitioners had for decades been struggling against rule by the Arab Muslim north.

“ITFC is keen to work closely with the partners and be part of this important initiative, the AfCFTA, especially during these challenging times. Intra-African trade is crucial for the economic awakening of the African continent. Sudan with its rich resources and strategic importance will have a huge potential in terms of exports and ultimately, the attainment of greater socio-economic inclusion in the country,” Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of ITFC, said.

The dialogue for stakeholders has a training component. The training to be held, as per the Ministry of Industry and Trade request, with the goal of raising stakeholders’ awareness on the potential impact of the AfCFTA on the national economy and how best for Sudan to benefit from this international trade agreement.

Government officials, private sector and civil society representatives, as well as academics, will be provided with a better understanding of the stakes and challenges related to the AfCFTA. In addition, the training will seek to increase Sudanese policymakers’ capacity to design and implement policies to enhance national exports and strengthen the productive sector.

The AfCFTA is scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2021, with the ambition of becoming the world’s largest trade bloc and generate a market of more than 1.2 billion consumers.

One year into the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Economic Commission for Africa and its partners consider that the AfCFTA can play a key role in accelerating Africa’s economic recovery and building back on stronger, more resilient bases thanks to the structural transformation of African economies.

While experts identify significant growth potentials for Sudanese sectors and products such as mining, leather, agro-industries and textiles, much remains to be done to restore and modernise the national financial and industrial sectors, and increase their competitiveness in the African and global trade markets.

The stakeholder dialogue on the African Continental Free Trade Area is the first of three workshops jointly organised by the ECA Office for North Africa and the Islamic Development Bank International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).

Upcoming events in Sudan in 2021 will include a second training on “Regional Value Chains in North Africa and Opportunities in the Context of the AfCFTA” aiming to improve public and private sector representatives’ knowledge of existing regional value chains in Africa and especially North Africa, and a third workshop on the “African Continent Market Access for Sudanese Products”, which will focus on the potential of promotion of Sudanese exports within the context of the AfCFTA.

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