VIENNA, 20 November 2019 –The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) together organized the 30th commemoration of the Africa Industrialization Day (AID) with an event highlighting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and opportunities for industrial and trading enterprises across the continent.
The conference explored the AfCFTA provisions in depth to further catalyze industrialization across African countries and mobilize policymakers, development partners and the private sector to address opportunities created by the AfCFTA.
“The free trade area will cover a market of over 1.2 billion people, and is expected to generate a gross domestic product to the tune of $2.5 trillion. With 55 Member States of the African Union, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area,” stated the UNIDO Director General LI Yong.
He emphasized that the factors of success in modern industrial production are information, skills and knowledge, technology, research and innovation, and networking. These modern industrial factors will create opportunities stemming from the AfCFTA initiative, which require a regional policy space and institutional direction and support at the regional level.
“I call on African countries to adopt a holistic approach to industrial policy, pursuing through stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships, green and clean industrialization strategies,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a message delivered by Yury Fedotov, Director-General of the UN in Vienna.
The event gathered a multi-stakeholder audience to raise awareness of the AfCFTA and the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa. “We need to create a generation where regional cooperation comes by default,” said Konstantina Kostova, representing the Delegation of the European Union to the International Organizations in Vienna.
Ahmat Awad Sakine, Permanent Representative of the African Union in Brussels, highlighted that the AfCFTA is about taking action and establishing proactive policies. Africa’s large market size and rich resources offer significant potential; however, substantial investments will be needed to make the AfCFTA work. African countries need to boost the industrial, the agricultural and the services sector, as well as bring down tariff barriers. During the key note speech, he emphasized his strong conviction that boosting commerce will contribute to maximizing industrialization benefits.
Dejene Tezera, Director of UNIDO’s Agri-business Department highlighted that with the Member States welcoming UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership as an innovative and unique model for accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development, there is an established foundation to further support industrialization in Africa.
Vivian Nwunaku Rose Okeke, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to UNIDO, emphasized that the AfCFTA is the right path to tackle African socio-economic challenges, such as the large-scale youth unemployment and corruption. She claimed that with the right resources, UNIDO is helping unlock the confidence of foreign investment partners.
Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, UNIDO’s Director of Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation, emphasized how reducing non-tariff measures may reach a potential gain of USD 20 billion, an estimation based on factual figures with the support of AfCFTA. “One very important element is the drivers for investment, which is commodities and low-cost labour. This is changing the equation of the type of investments going to the African continent.”
Yusuf Abijade, Gradient Consulting Africa, indicated that communication is key in terms of how to position Africa to foreign direct investments, as well as stressing the importance of being more involved with the private sector, particularly with investment industries.
Ping Liu, Director of Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate, World Customs Organization, highlighted that the uniform application of the new Harmonized System for the classification of goods is key for the development of efficient African trade, customs and tariffs.
Find more photos from the event on UNIDO Flickr.
For more information, please contact:
Programme Officer, Regional Division of Africa