Yaounde — The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) have just laid the foundation for close cooperation to drive economic diversification, industrialization and specialization in regional value chains, the active involvement of the Central African region in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and macro-economic stabilization in the sub-region.
In a draft addendum to a Memorandum of Understanding (dated 2005) entered into following a joint professional retreat, organized in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) from 23 to 25 April 2019, the two institutions also agreed to make the "Douala Consensus" a reference framework to support CEMAC's work on economic diversification and industrialization.
It is to be recalled that the said Consensus, adopted by the 33rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of the ECA for Central Africa in September 2017, recommends trade-driven economic diversification and industrialization underpinned by the processing of the abundant natural resources of countries of the area.
Reflections between the two institutions took place against the backdrop of the sub-region's drive to achieve emergence, through structural transformation, from challenging economic conditions due to recurring commodity price shocks, notably oil prices.
To better define new cooperation avenues, CEMAC and ECA experts discussed the new context marked by the AfCFTA, the demographic transition, climate change, the digital economy and the emergence of alternative financing arrangements, inter alia.
The retreat afforded the opportunity to discuss major regional integration projects in Central Africa, including the CEMAC economic and financial reforms programme (PREF-CEMAC, in French) and the Regional Economic Programme (PER, in French). The goal of the former is to ensure macro-economic stability and leitmotif of the latter is to promote trade and community development infrastructure.
Pursuant to its mandate and mission to build the capacity of its member States and of their Regional Economic Communities to promote sustainable development, notably through diversification, industrialization and structural transformation of economies, ECA shall, in its support to the CEMAC Commission, lay emphasis on the PREF-CEMAC pillar that focuses on long-term development goals, namely economic diversification and regional integration.
Accordingly, ECA shall assist the PREF-CEMAC Secretariat and member States in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating structuring measures needed to speed up economic diversification and regional integration (including trade integration via the AfCFTA).
The two institutions also decided to organize a special consultation on PER, in light of a new approach based on the "theory of change for Central Africa" and to jointly draft a "white paper on economic diversification and intra-regional trade", with precise quantitative benchmarks in respect of the goal sought and the body that will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation.
The experts also agreed to launch some studies on emerging issues such as sustainable jobs, green resources in Central Africa, the banking system and the services industry.
Given the urgent need of a framework for regular consultation between institutions of the sub-region that share the same vision of sustainable and inclusive development based on diversification and industrialization, the decision was made to organize regular meetings and working sessions for substantive dialogue between the ECA and CEMAC and other regional and sub-regional institutions such as the AfDB, BCEAC, ECCAS and BEAC.
The fiscal space required to finance development and the issue of policy coherence in the short-, medium- and long-term were also at the centre of discussions between the experts of the two institutions.
During the retreat, the CEMAC Commission also expressed interest in the training and tooling services provided by ECA through the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) of the United Nations.
At the end of the meeting, Antonio Pedro, Director of the Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa of the ECA said that the retreat "... was a high-level, strategic, results-oriented and enjoyable brainstorming series of sessions aimed at repositioning our partnership with CEMAC. I am rejoiced at the degree of alignment of our views about the development challenges confronting Central Africa and the opportunities to address them."
"Once adopted, the draft roadmap that we proposed will afford us the possibility to work in closer cooperation in the quest to reconcile the need to restore macro-economic stability as a short-term measure in Central Africa, while at the same time pursuing the longer-term goal of economic diversification and industrialization".
On behalf of the President of the CEMAC Commission, Mr. Michel Niama, the Commissioner heading the Common Market Department, also expressed the unfeigned satisfaction of the Commission regarding this new partnership commitment between his institution and ECA's Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa.
Abel Akara Ticha - Communication Officer
UN Economic Commission for Africa
No 637 Rue 3.069, Quartier du Lac, Yaounde
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