The AfCFTA Secretariat and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a strategic partnership to promote trade in Africa. The partnership will serve as a stimulus for Africa’s socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. It will also drive sustainable development particularly for women and youth in Africa. Moreover, this is in line with the SDGs and Agenda 2063, Africa’s development blueprint.
Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, sealed the agreement with the UNDP. Ambassador Fatima Mohammed Kyari, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations accompanied Mr. Wamkele . The UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa was also present. Mr. Wamkele Mene made the journey to New York for the historic occasion.
“The AfCFTA is beyond a trade liberalizing instrument. It is an enabler of inclusive growth and sustainable development. We must rebalance Africa’s role in global trade. As African countries implement COVID-19 recovery plans, this collaboration with UNDP will drive momentum…to ensure that women and youth are the leading beneficiaries of the AfCFTA”.
A financial grant of US$3 million
Meanwhile, the partnership will leverage UNDP’s presence in all African countries, working in close collaboration with other UN entities. This includes direct support to the AfCFTA Secretariat through a financial grant of US$3 million. This will enhance the AfCFTA Secretariat advocacy among policymakers, business, civil society, academia, youth, and other stakeholders.
“UNDP is pleased to support the AfCFTA as a development enabler and accelerator that can move the continent beyond COVID-19 recovery; towards the ‘Africa We Want’ and the Sustainable Development Goals. If we succeed, we will have contributed to creating stronger and more resilient, inclusive and green economies in Africa; characterized by rising incomes, jobs, more balanced trade, and better returns from Africa’s natural resources”.Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa
Moreover, Africa recognized trade as a means of implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063. Also, the new collaboration aims to address inequalities, promote value addition and create jobs. As a result, it is essential to target critical hurdles to exporting within Africa. This includes SME export competitiveness, rules of origin, technical and product safety standards.
Prospects of the AfCFTA
Nevertheless, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the world’s largest free-trade area, started trading on 1st January 2021. It will create a market of 1.2 billion people. It is also the eighth economic bloc in the world with a $3-trillion combined GDP. Moreover, the GDP may be more than double by 2050.
Furthermore, the partnership signing is part of a two-day official visit to New York by the AfCFTA Secretary-General. So far 16 countries have ratified the AfCFTA since its launch. It already possesses 90% of tariff offers and 34 service offers. This enables sound business and investment decisions in intra-African trade and strengthening accelerated action for trade.
Meanwhile, trading under the AfCFTA started in earnest on January 2021, following a five-and-half-year period since negotiations were launched in 2015. There were tough negotiations after the signing of the Agreement on 21st March 2018. However, the agreement entered into force on 30th May 2019 and started trading on January 1, 2021. Meanwhile, the UNDP is the first strategic partner for the implementation phase of the Agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding expresses a strong commitment to see the AfCFTA becoming an engine for Africa’s sustainable economic development.