Kigali — With a few more ratifications needed for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to become effective, scholars meeting for the Economic Research Conference in Kigali pledged to produce good high-quality research papers to inform policymakers and help move the agreement forward.
The Economic Research Conference was held on 12 March, organized by the Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN Rwanda) in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the German Cooperation (GIZ).
Andrew Mold, Acting Director of ECA in Eastern Africa, said that AfCFTA may give the impression that the agreement is simply about free trade, but in reality it is much more ambitious than that. "The AfCFTA goes beyond trade.- It is about creating a continental market. It is about free movement of people and free movement of goods and services, it is about protocols on government procurement and intellectual property", explained Mold.
Andrew Mold stressed that with the implementation of AfCFTA approaching, policymakers will need high-quality policy advice and research about the potential implications for their economies and where the opportunities reside, as well as where there may be potential vulnerabilities that need addressing.
Twenty-two ratifications are required for the Agreement to enter into force. So far 19 countries have ratified it.
Speaking also at the conference, Leonard Rugwabiza, the Economic Advisor at the Rwanda Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning said that in the face of changing global context and economic uncertainties, Africa must also change the ways it does business. "It will be more difficult to govern if we cannot change the structure of our economies and create jobs for our youth. The AfCFTA and the African single market offer us more opportunities to do so than challenges", said Rugwabiza.
The UNDP Rwanda Country Director, Stephen Rodrigues said that the implementation of the agreement needs to be done in a way that is inclusive and benefits small and medium-size SMEs on the continent.
"We should ensure that women and youth are included in implementing the AfCFTA. It is necessary to make policies that are inclusive and take into account people living with disability and those with low levels of education".
The Economic Research Conference was held under the theme: "The African Continental Free Trade Area: Challenges and Opportunities".