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Saturday, January 28, 2023

New project in support of African Continental Free Trade Area launched

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) are partnering on a new project aimed at helping eight African countries operationalise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Vera Songwe
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, UNECA

The project was launched at a virtual event on March 10, 2022, that brought together the Ministers of Trade of Senegal, Niger and Togo, and government representatives of Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. The project will support the implementation of more than 30 activities in the AfCFTA strategies of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia.

By assisting the implementation of priority actions formulated by ECA, the project will help to create an environment where trade can be more efficient and inclusive in the eight beneficiary countries. By the end of the project, their capacity will have been enhanced towards tangible outcomes, such as jobs and other economic opportunities.

“This project represents the EIF’s importance to continue foster regional programming as well as deepening relationship with partners for their economic recovery,” said Mikael Anzén, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the WTO and Chair of the EIF Steering Committee. “It leverages ECA’s extensive expertise and experience on the continent, building on the individual country strategies and the ITFC’s valuable trade skills.”

“ECA values the substantive work and productive collaboration undertaken since August 2021 with ITCF and EIF to support the operationalisation of the AfCFTA,” said Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the ECA.

“This joint project can potentially push regional trade levels up from 18% to 25% within a decade. With proper implementation, this could also lead to a $10 billion decrease in imports from outside the continent, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by up to $45 billion (7%) and $ 21 billion (5%) per year,” she added.

“We recognise the importance of facilitating trade with trade finance and trade development interventions,” said Eng Hani Salem Sonbol, Chief Executive Officer of ITFC. “ITFC has, since 2008, provided about $61 billion with $30 billion extended to Africa. In addition, we support the AfCFTA national strategies implementation in our Member Countries by harmonising customs codes with new tariff provisions, applying rules of origin, and training AfCFTA national stakeholders. Finally, we must also be quick together with our partners, we aim to encourage Africa’s involvement in regional value chains through programs such as the Arab Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Programme.”

The AfCFTA seeks to bring about the establishment of a common framework and sets of standards across the African continent to ensure trade cooperation, harmonisation, and efficiency. It entered into force on May 30, 2019, for the 24 countries that deposited their instruments of ratification by this date. The operational phase was launched on July 7, 2019.

The AfCFTA is expected to spur intra-African trade and to have positive spillover effects on trade among African least-developed countries. It is also expected that the AfCFTA will pave the way for increased inter-African trade due to better access to the intercontinental market.

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