United Nations has given its support to the African Union as the continent begins to operationalise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) expected to unleash the continent’s all-inclusive economic potential, according to Amina J Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General.
According to Amina, “the world’s largest free trade area, encompassing 54 countries and 1.2 billion people the AfCFTA will bring the promise of trade-led economic growth closer to reality for Africa’s entrepreneurs, industrialists, investors, innovators and service suppliers.
“It will create jobs and contribute to technology-transfer and the development of new skills; it will improve productive capacity and diversification; and it will increase African and foreign investment.”
Amina said, “We are already working with 16 African governments to develop national strategies to maximise the opportunities created by this agreement, and we will increase this number from next year.
“We are committed to working with African institutions to mobilise the resources that will be required for full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. In the first instance, the African Regional Integration Trust Fund will support countries to mobilise resources to finance regional integration.”
She said the UN would work with the African Union to coordinate and leverage complementary funding sources from the African Development Bank’s Africa50 Fund, to the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), she said, is supporting the process of mainstreaming gender and youth employment initiatives into national strategies.
Speaking further Amina said “This will help to ensure that trade policy is both gender-sensitive and responds to demographic realities, thereby contributing more fully to sustainable development,”
“Trade can contribute to both widening or closing inclusion and gender gaps, depending on how the process is managed. So we are also working with governments to counterbalance the distributional and gender-differentiated effects of trade liberalization.”
The African Union’s Phase II of the AfCFTA negotiations will tackle competition, investment, and intellectual property rights, which the UNDSG said were some of the regulatory obstacles that create dysfunction in integrated markets.
“I urge you to move decisively and quickly during the transitional period up to 1 July 2020 to reap the rewards of this historic agreement,” she said, adding Africans should take particular pride in reaching this agreement at a time of growing protectionism and rising trade tensions that threaten economic stability and progress around the world.
From free trade to climate change and migration, African countries and regional organizations are developing progressive policies that demonstrate global responsibility and forge a new path for multilateralism and sustainability, UN deputy Secretary-General.
“The entire United Nations System will continue to support African countries as you accelerate the continent’s development. Together, we will realise our shared vision of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind,” she added.
“Perhaps most important of all, the AfCFTA demonstrates the common will of African countries to work together to achieve the vision of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”
Africa largest economy President, Muhammadu Buhari has signed the historic agreement during the opening session of the summit.
Benin Republic also signed the agreement, making it 54 out of the 55 African countries to sign on, leaving Eritrea as the only one yet to sign on.