Africa’s integration is no longer a choice, it is a must for the continent and its people in order for the continent to become a global player, said stakeholders in Africa’s economic growth and development.
This was the highlight of the 13th African Economic Conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, where participants called for African countries to leverage the full range of their strengths and resources to accelerate the region’s drive towards continental integration.
The Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning, Hon. Claudine Uwera, stressed this fact in a statement from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and made available to Global Sentinel on Tuesday.
Uwera while speaking during the conference’s opening ceremony, said: “Africa’s integration is no longer a choice. It’s a must for the continent and its people. To become the global player that it deserves to be, Africa should integrate speedily.”
The conference with theme: “Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development” the 2018 AEC, jointly organized by the UNDP, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB) follows the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) eight months ago in Kigali.
Experts at the conference agreed that a self-reliant approach that emphasizes intra-African trade, would not only help deepen regional economic integration, but contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction, and inflow of foreign direct investment.
The AfCTA signed in March 2018 by 44 countries is seen as the most ambitious effort to form what has the potential to be the world’s biggest free trade agreement which aims to create a single continental market of goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments across Africa.
Estimates are that if Africa were to increase its share of global trade from 2 to 3 percent , the one percentage point increase would result in an annual additional income of about US$70 billion.
The UNDP Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, observed: “African countries need to collaborate more effectively in devising public policies that can create skills, foster innovation and technological advancement, facilitate labour mobility and access to productive assets including land and finance.”
Also speaking to the urgency of ratifying the AfCFTA, the ECA Deputy Executive Secretary, Ms. Giovanie Biha, said: “It’s time to ratify to ratify AfCFTA, the more ambitious the liberalization, the higher will be the gains in terms of increase in GDP and exports.”
She that the need for African economies to adopt innovative approaches to finance integration and especially infrastructure development also underscored.
In the same vein, the Director General of AfDB, Mr. Gabriel Negatu, stated: “We are committed to continue supporting Africa’s integration agenda for it will lead to sustained growth and allow the continent to withstand external pressures; enable African companies to grow and become global giants.”
AEC 2018 debates are expected to focus on four main themes: Conceptual underpinning of Africa’s integration; Infrastructure and institution for Africa’s integration; Leveraging private sector for Africa’s integration; Partnerships for effective integration that address impediments to Africa’s regional and continental integration.
The high points of the conference will include the launch of three significant reports: the 2018 Visa Openness Index; the 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report; and the African Governance Report on Tuesday, December 4, 2018.