Addis Ababa, 3 May 2021, ECA – The European Union will continue to be a strong supporter of Africa’s economic integration agenda, particularly the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), said Birgitte Markussen, the EU’s ambassador to the African Union (AU).
She was speaking at a webinar organized recently by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Carleton University, Canada, and the Pan African Strategic & Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG) with the support of the EU.
The ambassador said the EU welcomed the start of trading under the AfCFTA since 1 January this year and pledged EU’s political, financial, technical and policy support, including over 74 million euro that had been provided to support the continent from 2014 to date.
“We’ll walk hand-in-and with Africa in its own continental integration process,” she said.
More than 150 participants comprising policy makers, experts on trade and economics from the UN, the AU, representatives of research institutes and academia, the private sector, and civil society from Africa, Europe, Asia and North America attended the webinar from 27 April to 29 April.
Its main thrust was to examine the probable impact of bilateral economic and trade arrangements between third parties and African countries on the AfCFTA implementation.
Underscoring the importance attached to the event, Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, said the webinar was a timely one that provided an opportunity to consider existential issues in the context of the ACFTA.
The ECA was looking at the issues of poverty, inequality, carbon tax and the building of resilience through the AfCFTA, he said, and that it was determined to learn lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and build inclusive economies that address the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic.
Keynote speaker Prof. Melaku Desta called on African countries while negotiating trade deals with third parties to act collectively as one entity, because engaging them individually might complicate Africa’s integration agenda and undermine the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA holds the promise of accelerating the inclusive and sustainable development of Africa through the creation of a single and liberalized market for goods and services which will increase intra-African trade and boost revenues and livelihoods.
The AfCFTA agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries – the minimum number required by the treaty.
It provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world's largest free trade area with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people in an economic bloc with a gross domestic product worth more than $2.5 trillion. It has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.
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