Addis Ababa — Speaking at the Eighth Ordinary Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Trade in Addis Ababa this week, Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa has stressed that deepening Africa's regional integration is necessary for harnessing the potential benefits of a large and growing internal market. It is also key to building the industrial production capabilities that the continent needs in order to be competitive in in global trade.
The meeting is taking place in the context of the 50th Anniversary of both the OAU/AU and the adoption by African Heads of State and Government of the Renaissance and the Vision of Africa for the next 50 years. According to Mr. Hamdok, the vision is that of "a prosperous and united continent that is effectively integrated and that has strong links within the global economic system."
In this vision, stressed the Deputy Executive Secretary, "poverty becomes a thing of the past, and the living conditions of the peoples are characterized by sustained improvement."
He underscored that trade can serve as a powerful engine for job creation, inclusive growth, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. "But it is participation in the dynamic sectors of global trade--manufactures and services--that has the potential of delivering these results and not trade in primary commodities.
"Our work at the ECA continues to show that the failure of Africa's economic growth to have a deep impact on the social conditions can be attributed largely to the nature of the driving force of the growth, especially production and trade patterns," said Mr. Hamdok.
He added that Africa continues to be a major source of agricultural and mineral resources, which have been powering economic growth and development in other regions.
"The exports from Africa of raw materials with little or no value addition, have limited their contributions to job creation and improvement in the living conditions of the people," he said.
He called on the Ministers to give African citizens clear direction on the implementation of the Boosting Intra-African Trade Action Plan and clarity on how Africa will realize the Continental Free Trade Area.
"If we can achieve this, I believe we will be in a much better position to engage in multilateral trade negotiations including in the issues to be discussed in the WTO Bali Conference in December and also with our European partners who have travelled to come and engage you on the conclusion of Economic Partnership Agreements," he said.
He stressed that the same kind of urgency and investment given to the WTO and bilateral relationships needs to be accorded to the African trade agenda. Without this urgency, "our goal for a more integrated Africa will not be easy to realize," he said.
Mr. Hamdok told the meeting that deep partnerships are being pursued by Africa's trading partners. He called for an implementation strategy for the delivery of the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017, as well as doubling intra-African trade within this decade.
"The state of play within our Regional Economic Commissions and empirical work at ECA suggest that both are achievable," he said.
Present at the meeting were Mr. YackobYalla, State Minister of Trade of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union Commission; Dr. MukhisaKituyi, Secretary General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; Dr. YonovAgah, Deputy Director General, World Trade Organisation; and Ms. Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre.
The Summit of the African Union has adopted a number of trade-related initiatives which, if effectively implemented can assist in meeting the above mentioned challenges. These include the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and the agenda for the establishment of a Pan-African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by an indicative date of 2017, the Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA), the African Mining Vision (AMV) and its Action Plan, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and the African Agribusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative(3ADI). Experts underscore that the key to the success of these initiatives as drivers of Africa's economic transformation is implementation. These frameworks provide us what Africa's agenda is. They can also inform the milestones for the Agenda 2063.