The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has urged the private sector to “own and drive” the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
In a statement by the Communications Section, ECA on Friday, Mr Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said this.
Karingi said this at the opening of a three-day Africa Prosperity Dialogues in Ghana on Thursday.
“Africa’s private sector accounts for 80 per cent of total production, two-thirds of investment, and three-quarters of credit, and employs 90 per cent of the working-age population.”
He further called on leaders of trade and industry to “own and drive the implementation of the AfCFTA by supporting their governments but also by holding them to account”.
He also said the ECA estimated that by 2045 intra-African trade in agri-food, industry, and services sectors would increase by nearly 35 per cent compared to a situation without the AfCFTA.
He, however, called on governments to implement the agreement “fully and effectively for such impressive projections to come true”.
Karingi said the private sector should also seize the opportunities of a large single market created by the AfCFTA.
The director, however, said that the African private sector, of which 90 per cent are small and medium enterprises, faced challenges in conducting cross-border trade due to non-tariff barriers.
The non-tariff barriers included complex customs procedures, lack of access to finance, high costs of transportation and logistics, and lack of access to information, among others.
“The cost of doing business across African borders remains high, leading to the regrettable situation where African products are uncompetitive in African markets.”
He further told participants that “ECA has been there from the beginning; ECA will be there to the end.
“Africa is ready to turn the promises of the AfCFTA to reality, and ECA will be there all the way.”
Also, the Chairperson, African Prosperity Network, Gabby Otchere-Darko said the private sector should make the AfCFTA its agenda.
“We (the private sector) should make the fulfillment of the promises of the AfCTA our agenda.”
The event was officially opened by Ghana’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia.
Bawumia said: “We have everything we need to transform Africa into a global powerhouse of the future.
“The AfCFTA has set the stage for Africa’s industrialisation.”
Furthermore, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Africa said: “It is through the AfCTA that we will industrialise and create rather than export African jobs.
“An Africa that produces its people’s needs is not just the Africa we want, it is the Africa we need.”
Also, Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, said the ambition to integrate Africa dated back to the founding of the Organisation for African Unity (now the African Union).
Mene, however, said the challenge was to “transform such ambition into action”.
He spoke on vaccine manufacturing in some African countries as one of the ways in which the continent was moving from ambition to action under the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA is expected to integrate and consolidate Africa into a single 2.7 trillion-dollar market by eliminating many of the barriers to trade present across the continent.
The maiden Africa Prosperity Dialogues was organised by the Africa Prosperity Network in collaboration with the ECA, the AfCFTA secretariat, and the government of Ghana.