ECCAS Salutes ECA's Contribution to Regional Integration in Central Africa

11 February 2020

Addis Ababa/Yaounde — The Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) - Mr Ahmad Allam-Mi has sounded a high note of satisfaction at the work of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in supporting regional integration in Central Africa since the founding of ECCAS in 1983.

"On behalf of the Community [ECCAS] and the two regional bodies [CEMAC and ECCAS], I would like to sincerely congratulate your Regional Office for Central Africa for the professionalism they have shown" especially in operationalizing the contribution agreement to deepen the harmonization of ECCAS-CEMAC trade policy instruments, he said, during a high-level meeting with ECA's Executive Secretary, Ms Vera Songwe, held on the fringe of the 33rd African Union Summit that is underway in Addis Ababa.

The project in reference, actually being rounded-off, is funded by the European Union but technically managed by ECA.

It helped articulate common negotiation positions for the ECCAS subregion including the bloc's specific list of goods and services from which Central African governments will commit to remove tariffs as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) takes shape.. The project also contributed to accelerate the pace of implementation of actions towards the realization of a Central African Customs Union as well as to the constitution of the subregion's Boosting Intra African Trade (BIAT) Task Force.

While noting that it would be important for both ECA and ECCAS to deepen the impact of the above project, Mr. Allam-Mi recognized the role played by the Commission to bring ECCAS member States up-to-speed with the AfCFTA processes through awareness raising and mobilization for a and the formulation of national AfCFTA strategies. .

"We are particularly committed to supporting ECCAS to seamlessly move into the operational phase of the AfCFTA and together with you, we would like to push for the swift ratification of the trade agreement by member States of the subregion who are yet to do so," said Ms. Songwe, who added that "we are ready to support more ECCAS countries to develop their national AfCFTA strategies with the view to making the continental common market profitable for their economies."

So far, the following countries from the subregion have ratified the continental trade Agreement: Cameroon, Chad, Congo (Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and São and Tomé and Príncipe.

Ms. Songwe said while waiting for the remaining member States of the ECCAS zone to ratify the trade agreement, ECA would be ready to provide more support on the taxonomy and scheduling of trade in services, in consolidating the subregion's rules of origin and in establishing the institutions which will issue certificates of origin., a key instrument to facilitate trade under the AfCFTA.

She noted that there was work to be done in embedding all tariff concessions emanating from the agreement in national finance bills.

Supporting economic diversification in Central Africa

Both personalities stressed the need to work strongly together on advisory services for economic diversification in Central Africa - a cause which ECA has been championing since the adoption of the Douala Consensus of 2017 aimed at reducing the subregion's dependence on the export of raw materials and accelerating industrialization.

"We appreciate ECA's ongoing support to Chad in the development of the country's Industrialization and Economic Diversification Masterplan (PDIDE)," Said Ambassador Allam-Mi, while intimating that "this structural support is necessary for several other ECCAS member States and we should agree on a joint framework of collaboration and action towards this goal."

Milestones in infrastructure development

They called to memory the tangible results of collaboration between both institutions on infrastructure development, notably the Central Africa Consensual Transport Master Plan (PDCT-AC), which was elaborated with the full support of ECA in 2004.

So far the Plan has boosted the confidence of funders to support the infrastructure projects in the subregion especially through the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), led to the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) map on the consensual road network of Central Africa, and resulted in the paving of 36 roadways to ease transport integration in Central Africa, covering 6,008 km.

The ECCAS Secretary-General said his institution was looking forward to the continuation of this work, especially in terms of covering the infrastructure needed for all other transport modes, aside from that of road. He revealed that ECCAS was currently in the process of developing a regional transport and trade facilitation strategy with the support of the World Bank and would need ECA's technical assistance therein.

Deeper collaboration moving forward

Jointly tackling Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) from the subregion, was also fingered as a crucial area of cooperation, henceforth.

From the session between the principals of ECA and ECCAS, it is understood that deeper collaboration between both intuitions is being hatched. A tripartite memorandum of understanding for collaboration between ECCAS, ECA's Subregional Office for Central Africa and ECA's Africa Trade Policy Center (ATPC), is therefore in the works.

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