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ECA, ITFC, EIF partner to support African countries operationalise AfCFTA

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A new project out of a partnership between the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) aimed at helping eight African countries operationalize the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has been initiated.

A press release from the ECA copied to Ghana Business News, says the project launched at a virtual event on March 10 will support the implementation of more than 30 activities in the AfCFTA strategies of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia.

According to the release, the project will help to create an environment where trade can be more efficient and inclusive in the eight beneficiary countries.

The release indicates that the EIF is the only multilateral partnership dedicated exclusively to assisting Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in their use of trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development, and poverty reduction. The EIF partnership of 51 countries, 24 donors and eight partner agencies works closely with governments, development organizations, civil society, and academia.

“By the end of the project, their capacity will have been enhanced towards tangible outcomes, such as jobs and other economic opportunities,” the release said.

Commenting on the project, Mikael Anzén, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the WTO and Chair of the EIF Steering Committee, said, “This project represents the EIF’s importance to continue to foster regional programming as well as deepen relationship with partners for their economic recovery.

“It leverages ECA’s extensive expertise and experience on the continent, building on the individual country strategies and the ITFC’s valuable trade skills.”

The AfCFTA which begun January 1, 2021, with a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion is expected to lead to a new era of development in Africa.

It also seeks to lead to the establishment of a common framework and sets of standards across the Africa to ensure trade cooperation, harmonization, and efficiency.

The AfCFTA is expected to spur intra-African trade and to have positive spillover effects on trade among African least-developed countries. It is also expected that the AfCFTA will pave the way for increased inter-African trade due to better access to the intercontinental market.

In her remarks, Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the ECA said: “ECA values the substantive work and productive collaboration undertaken since August 2021 with ITCF and EIF to support the operationalization of the AfCFTA,” she said, adding that, “This joint project can potentially push regional trade levels up from 18 per cent to 25 per cent within a decade.

With proper implementation, this could also lead to a $10 billion decrease in imports from outside the continent, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by up to $45 billion (7 per cent) and $21 billion (5 per cent) per year.”

On his part, Eng Hani Salem Sonbol, Chief Executive Officer of ITFC said, “We recognize the importance of facilitating trade with trade finance and trade development interventions.

“ITFC has, since 2008, provided about $61 billion with $30 billion extended to Africa. In addition, we support the AfCFTA national strategies implementation in our Member Countries by harmonizing customs codes with new tariff provisions, applying rules of origin, and training AfCFTA national stakeholders. Finally, we must also be quick together with our partners, we aim to encourage Africa’s involvement in regional value chains through programs such as the Arab Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Program.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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