Sao Tome and Principe Urged to Workout African Free Trade Strategy

30 October 2019

- The United Nations System has urged the Government of Sao Tome and Principe, a small island state located off the Gulf of Guinea, to "take deliberate action and make the necessary efforts, through an effective and integrated national strategy, to maximize the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will bring."

The Resident Coordinator of the UN System in the country, Ms. Zahira Virani, made this call while addressing State officials and more than 50 participants of a workshop convened by the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in the town of Sao Tome, to deepen national understanding on the practical steps the country must take to benefit from the continental common market.

"In this regard, it is necessary to support the political reforms aimed at implementing the agreement," Ms. Virani, noted, adding that the UN System attaches particular importance to the AfCFTA, on which it would continue, through ECA, to support the Sao Tomean as well as governments of the other four Small Island Development States (SIDS) in Africa notably: Cabo Verde, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles.

The SIDS in Africa have been grouped by ECA's African Trade Policy Centre under one canopy to provide them with bespoke technical support for capitalizing on the opportunities of the African common market, given the challenges faced by these group of small island nations.

"This project recognizes the unique structural features of SIDS starting with their 'insularity', remoteness from continental markets and associated costs, small size and population, limited natural resource endowment, and vulnerability to climate change," reckoned Ms. Shamnaaz B. Sufrauj, on behalf of ATPC.

In this particular case, "we are aware that the structural transformation of Sao Tome and Principe requires overcoming certain obstacles such as the absence of statistical data necessary for the formulation of coherent policies based on evidence" as well as "the need to align youth training policy with the country's development needs," echoed Mr. Simon Fouda, an economic affairs officer from ECA's Subregional Office for Central Africa which is contributing its expertise to the project.

In concurrence with the propositions of the UN representatives, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, Trade and Industry - Ms. Maria de la Graça Lavres of Sao Tome and Principe, who chaired deliberations at the event, said her country would take the necessary measures to improve on its exports to the rest of Africa by first of all attracting foreign investment to modernize its economy, then, flipping to a page of local manufacturing while improving the negotiating capacity of its national actors.

ECA has argued that the Blue Economy can play a major role in the structural transformation, hence common-market readiness, of Sao Tome and Principe. This would require the sustainable use, management and conservation of aquatic and marine ecosystems and associated resources and an optimal linkage of these with other sectors.

It entails making use of the country's over 1,000 square kilometers of land and an exclusive marine zone of more than 160,000 square kilometers, to drastically improve its fisheries and aquaculture sector (which contributed only 3% to the country's GDP in 2015).

During an initial contact to prod the country on the path to AfCFTA, in April 2019, ECA officials enumerated a number of products and services which Sao Tome and Principe could take advantage of, to cash-in on the AfCFTA, including: a possible shipping and offshore free-trade zone, eco-tourism and biodiversity, fossil and renewable marine energy, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, genetic resources and marine products.

According to African Union Representative, Mr. Youssouf Takane, who also spoke at the two-day workshop in Sao Tome, given these opportunities, "it is high time to develop an integrated approach to molding the continent into a single trading area which would foster the participation and integration of the Africa into the global economy."

Media Contacts

Abel Akara Ticha - Communication Officer

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

637, rue 3.069, Quartier du Lac, Yaounde, Cameroon

Tel: +237 222504348

E-mail: akara@un.org

Senait Afework, Associate Communication/Programme Management Officer

African Trade Policy Centre (RITD)

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tel: +251 115 44 39 29/+251 911 52 32 65

Email: safework@uneca.org

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