By Asmau Ahmad
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has inaugurated a 14-member team to serve as its Trade and Industrial Development Advisory Council.
A statement issued by the AfCFTA secretariat on Tuesday said that Professor Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu and Ms Jane Ezirigwe of Nigeria are part of the team.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka is the Special Advisor to the President of African Development Bank (AfDB) on Industrialisation.
He is a globally respected leader in the field of development economics, where he has contributed immensely to the social sciences of urbanisation and human settlement, industrialisation and economic development.
Dipeolu is the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Economic Matters, while Ezirigwe is a research fellow at the Nigerian institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) with research interests focused on food and agriculture, law, human rights and development.
According to the statement, one of the key mandates of the AfCFTA agreement is the promotion of industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security.
“This is imperative given the low levels of investments in industrial production, which is also a major contributor to the low percentage of intra-African trade.
“Africa has 17 per cent of the global population and fastest-growing middle class but only accounts for 2.1 per cent of global trade and three per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“It is against this background that Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene convened a brainstorming workshop to discuss the matters of trade and industrial development, which led to his proposal to constitute an Advisory Council.”
The council is to provide advice on trade integration and transformative industrialisation as part of the implementation of the AfCFTA.
It added that the recent Summit of Heads of State and Government in February endorsed the proposal.
Other members of the council include Dr Arkebe Oqubay, a Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Dr Rob Davies, former South African Minister of Trade and Industry; Dr Taffere Tesfachew, former director of the Division on Africa and Least Developed Countries, UNCTAD.
Prof. Carlos Lopes, former Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; Dr Celestin Monga, visiting Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Amb. Magda Shahin and Prof. Caroline Ncube are also part of the team.
The council also has as members, Prof. Fiona Tregenna, Dr Stephen Karingi, Dr Gainmore Zanamwe, and Prof. Faizel Ismail who served as Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and recently authored a book titled “AfCFTA and Developmental Regionalism”.
AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area and is expected to boost trade among African countries.
All African countries except Eritrea have signed on to the framework agreement, with 41 of them ratifying it.