ECA signs €3m agreement with European Union on continental free trade area

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the European Union have signed a €3-million agreement aimed at supporting the national implementation strategies for the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The establishment of an African Trade Observatory is also planned, and would be a key pillar of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Ms Vera Songwe, the ECA Executive Secretary, said in Vienna.

The MoU was signed by Ms Songwe on behalf of the Commission whilst Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, signed for the Union.

Ms Songwe, who was speaking at the high level segment of the Africa-Europe conference, which took place in Vienna, stressed the need for harmonisation as part of the integration process.

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demand that we take development to the digital age. We must also integrate the Continent digitally for a more diversified and prosperous Africa,” she said.

The Conference was on the theme: “Taking Development Cooperation on to the Digital Age.”

Ms Songwe noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is one of the key priorities of Africa´s Agenda 2063 and a flagship project for the Continent.

She said it has been signed by 49 African countries whilst 14 countries have ratified, eight more are needed to reach the threshold of 22.

The AfCFTA aims at providing a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments.

Its goal is to accelerate Intra-Africa trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation.

Through these measures, the establishment of the AfCFTA is expected to gather impetus to boost economic growth and attract investments from both within Africa and the world.

The EU has been supporting the AfCFTA negotiations processes since inception.

The AfCFTA was formally established in March 2018 at the 10TH Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda.

It is one of the key priorities of the Africa Agenda 2063 and a major step towards African Continental Economic Integration. It also featured highly in the political declaration of the fifth AU-EU Summit of Abidjan.

The potential gains from increased regional and economic integration are substantial for Africa as the Continent has the lowest percentage of intraregional trade.

Only 15 per cent of exports take place within Africa, compared with 25 per cent in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and over 60 per cent in the EU. In addition, exports are often limited to natural resources with little added value from other sectors of the economies

The support to the African continental free trade agreement is one of the pillars of the recently launched Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The Alliance aims to deepen economic and trade relations between Africa and Europe.

The final aim is to support regional economic integration in Africa to achieve markets that are more integrated, promote intra-regional trade, develop Africa’s investment and productive capacity, create decent jobs and improve inter-regional economic infrastructure.

Source: GNA

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