By Asmau Ahmad
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), says Africa should promote policies and infrastructure development to attract green investment and boost trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Acting Executive Secretary of ECA, Antonio Pedro, in a statement issued on the commission’s website, said this at the Africa Regional Session of the 12th Annual Investment Meeting in Abu Dhabi.
The theme of the Africa Regional Session is “The AfCFTA Investment Protocol – An Investment Paradigm Shift for Africa.”
Pedro said: “To reap the AfCFTA opportunities we must address Africa’s infrastructure gap.
“To attract sustainable cross-border investments to Africa hard and soft infrastructure must be addressed.
“It is not because of the lack of blueprints, Africa has not achieved structural transformation, but rather the lack of policy space to pursue the agenda.”
He called on African countries to support the implementation of the AfCFTA with harmonised continental, regional and national trade and industrial policies that would help move from ideas into action.
According to him, AfCFTA entered into force in 2019 and constitutes a single continental market with a population of about 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately $2.5 trillion.
Pedro said at its full realisation, the AfCFTA with the mandate of eliminating trade barriers, would be the largest free trade area in the world bringing together the 54 countries.
He said the AfCFTA and the programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) of the African Union (AU), would help deepen regional integration and build regional value chains.
He highlighted the importance of building beyond Africa’s comparative advantage of resource endowment and low costs.
“We need to invest in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), to stay competitive in the long run and build Regional Value Chains (RVCs) that can generate more value added to increase market share of African businesses.
“Africa can leverage its natural resources to create sustainable regional value chains such as the battery and electric vehicles value chain in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia.
“Green industries are important for Africa’s competitiveness in future net-zero carbon markets,” Pedro said.
According to him, an African Carbon Market presents a viable structural approach to attract sustainable investment opportunities, that can drive the continent’s green growth ambition.
In a remark, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, emphasised the need to reinvigorate national trade institutions to ensure inclusive and sustainable implementation of AfCFTA.
“For AfCFTA to become an active instrument of change, finance is needed to build capacity of the private sector and build the necessary infrastructure to connect trade paths on the continent,” she said.
Mr Anthony Kamole, Managing Director, DRC National Agency for the Promotion of Investments (ANAPI), said ANAPI was working with the government to identify legal frameworks.
Kamole said the framework would ensure DRC’s industries were leveled with other African countries, regarding standardisation of industries, tax systems, and rules for businesses establishment.
The AfCFTA Secretariat Director, Emily Mburu, said AfCFTA’s potential could be unlocked through free movement of people across the continent, to upgrade industries and leverage on the diversification of other African countries.
Mr Abdoulaye Balde, Managing Director of APIX, said investments in sustainable energy would enable countries to diversify energy resources and reduction in costs of production.
“This can unlock industries’ modernisation and improve the connection of infrastructure- and transportation across the continent.
“Training centres targeting the youth are being established in Senegal to prepare for the quality human resources demand that will emerge from enhanced intra-African trade under the AfCFTA,” Balde said.