NEW YORK, 26 September 2018 – High-level representatives of governments, development finance institutions and UN agencies, together with representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia, met today at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss how inclusive and sustainable industrial development can support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The event was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In the next decades, Africa is set to become the youngest and most populous continent in the world, with a working age population expected to grow by around 70 per cent to number 450 million people by 2035. Job creation in Africa is not keeping pace with the growing workforce and large parts of the rural population, the urban poor, women and youth have not benefited from recent economic growth. Unemployment and inequality still remain unacceptably high.
Policymakers now acknowledge that the continent’s economies need to undertake a systematic structural transformation from resource-based economies to more diversified economies, specifically by increasing the shares of manufacturing and agro-related industry in national investment, output and trade.
The AfCFTA, launched by the AUC in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, has enormous potential for catalyzing this structural transformation, as it will spur industrialization, economic diversification and employment in Africa. It will create a continental market of 1.2 billion consumers and an African GDP of US$2.5 trillion, and is expected to provide great business opportunities for trading enterprises, businesses and consumers.
In her opening remarks, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, welcomed the launch of the AfCFTA and stressed that “sustainable industrialization is key to the success of the Free Trade Area, with an emphasis on inclusive development that harnesses the energy, drive, creativity and skills of women and youth.”
Addressing the audience, LI Yong, the Director General of UNIDO, which is leading the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDAIII), said that, if the full benefits of the AfCFTA are to be fully realized, industrialization should be the central focus. He predicted that “the successful implementation of the AfCFTA will lead to an increase in demand for goods manufactured by small and medium-sized enterprises.”
The African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga, emphasized that “the African Continental Free Trade Area and IDDAIII are complementary, and the alignment will offer win-win outcomes to Africa and the international community.”
All speakers agreed that for the implementation of the AfCTFA to be successful it will necessarily require further enhanced and concerted efforts by all international and national stakeholders – especially through innovative global partnerships on a multilateral level.
Pierre Guislain, Vice President of the African Development Bank, said that “the private sector has a critical role to play in driving Africa’s industrialization and integration”. He added that “boosting intra-African investment was as important as boosting intra-African trade” and called on governments "to accelerate adoption and implementation of the CFTA and create truly integrated regional markets that have the scale needed for large private investments”.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UNECA, stressed, “if the AfCFTA is to catalyze Africa’s industrialization through integrated markets then bridging infrastructure gaps and digitalizing economies across the continent is critical!”
Noting that the AfCFTA and industrialization strategies will need to exploit the full agribusiness potential of the continent, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the FAO, said, “agro-industrial development that connects family farmers, herders and fisher folks to rewarding markets can create opportunities for young people, stimulate greener practices throughout the food system, and deliver healthier and safer food to consumers.”
During the event, it was announced that the following heads of state had agreed to become IDDA III Champions to actively promote the role of inclusive and sustainable industrial development within the IDDA III framework and to increase awareness of this important initiative at the national, regional and global level: His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya; Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of the Republic of Malta; His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger; His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal; His Excellency Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa; and His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia.
The meeting concluded with the recognition that the successful implementation of the AfCTFA will require enhanced and concerted efforts to address several critical areas related to industrial development, and issued a call for strategic partnerships with financial institutions and the business sector in order to leverage additional resources for infrastructure, industry and innovation, as well as knowledge, expertise and technology.
For more information, contact
Charles Arthur, Communications Officer, UNIDO
French version available.