At a time when the global trade is characterized by much uncertainty and when the rest of the world is becoming increasingly inward-looking, it's good that Africa unites and leverages the plentiful opportunities available within the continent, said Andrew Mold, the Acting Director of UN Economic Commission for Africa in Eastern Africa.
He was speaking at the Eisenhower Fellowships Africa Regional Conference held in Kigali on 14-15 June 2019.
Mold said that East African countries still tend to predominantly export commodities to the rest of the world while importing manufactured goods. "The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers a unique opportunity for countries to trade more with each other, unlocking the manufacturing potential of the region." But the benefits will not be restricted to the manufacturing sector, he went on to stress. "Recent research reveals that services trade grew by around 60 per cent after the implementation of the European Single Market Programme in the 1990s- Africa could expect a similar boost to its services sector," he emphasized.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) argues that African countries need to foster a higher level of industrial development to drive their economic transformation and create the needed jobs for the young population on the continent.
Eisenhower Fellowships Africa Regional Conference in Kigali was held on the topic: The Future of Africa's Integration into the Global Economy. Experts attending the conference discussed the benefits of AfCFTA and how Africa can claim its economic importance on the global stage.
Mold explained large potential gains from the AfCFTA. Among others, he said that the agreement will Increase intra-African exports of Eastern Africa by almost US$ 1 billion and could possibly create close to 2 million jobs.
Mold was on the panel with Sandra Uwera, CEO COMESA Business Council, Kwabena Ayirebi, Director of Banking Operations at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Emery Rubagenga, CEO of a Rwandan mining company, Roka Global Resources.
According to Uwera, Africans often do not trade with each other because they lack sufficient information and do not know enough about existing products on the market. "We are not trading enough together, and yet we buy on the international market what exists next door in the neighbouring market", she said. "There is a need to create a platform that provides information on the products available. We also need to move to e-commerce and digitalise our trade where our products will become available online" explained Uwera.
The President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame, who was the guest of honour at the opening of the conference, discussed a wide range of issues related to Africa's ambitions of deeper regional integration. The President said that there is now a realization that everybody benefits when we stand together as a continent.
"If you operate as individual countries, as we have done for a very long time, you don't get anywhere. Every African country now realizes that we benefit more by working with others", he said.
The conference was attended by Eisenhower Fellows, together with government representatives, business leaders, academics, scientists, journalists and the youth.
Eisenhower Fellowships is an organization created in 1953 by a group of American citizens to honour the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his contribution to humanity.