The regional bloc for West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken steps to quicken the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in the region.
The ECOWAS announced Monday September 4, 2023 that it has adopted a regional strategy to accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA and “leverage on opportunities for growth and prosperity in the region.”
It indicated that the 90th Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers endorsed the Implementation Strategy for the AfCFTA on July 6 and 7, 2023, in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
This step follows the Strategy’s adoption by ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry (ECOMOTI) at the 3rd Ministerial meeting which was held on April 27 and 28 in Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire, the regional group added.
According to the group it developed the ECOWAS Implementation Strategy for the AfCFTA to effectively integrate West African economies into the continental market, by building on the progress and success of regional integration in West Africa in order to better take advantage of the economic gains of a common African Market.
The strategy it notes, is geared towards improving the effectiveness of the region’s trade integration framework, increasing coordination between Member States on their national AfCFTA implementation strategies, strengthening the productive capacity of Member States, building the capacity of Member States to engage in strategic African trade policy and ensuring the AfCFTA is a positive tool for women’s and youth economic empowerment.
Commenting on the strategy, Massandjé Toure-Litse, Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture at the ECOWAS Commission said: “The ECOWAS AfCFTA Strategy for the Implementation of the AfCFTA is an important milestone in the region’s efforts to fast-track the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement.
The Commission is committed to working with Member States to ensure that the Community and its people and business can fully benefit from the African Market.”
ECOWAS says the AfCFTA is an integral part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. It is an ambitious trade agreement that includes critical areas of Africa’s economy, such as digital trade and investment protection, amongst other areas. By eliminating barriers that prevent African businesses from trading in goods and services and making investments Africa, the full implementation of the AfCFTA is expected to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production, open new economic sectors, create jobs for a thriving youthful continental population, potentially lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty and give a $450 billion boost in Africa’s income by 2035.
The AfCFTA Secretariat reports that as of February 2023, 24 countries and one regional economic community (REC) had validated their implementation strategies; nine national strategies were already being implemented and 10 national and two other RECs were drafting strategies.’
The AfCFTA took off since trading began January 1, 2021. With a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, the AfCFTA is believed to be an arrow head to spur economic development in Africa.
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi
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