The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms Vera Songwe, said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a powerful tool to accelerate regional and economic integration in Africa.
The statement was made during a virtual panel by the African Union marking the Africa Integration for the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
She urged that Continental Free Trade Agreement would be Africa’s Marshall plan. Adding that nobody could have predicted the deep effects of the economic crisis on the continent.
“We need to talk about Africa and the AfCFTA. Our Marshall Plan is the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is our plan, so let us take it and run with it.
“The Marshall Plan for Europe was about 160 per cent of their GDP traded to bring back growth after the war,” she said.
She added that implementation of the AFCFTA, would help the continent have control of its economic future. She added that the UN Economic Commission for Africa forecasts African GDP would decline by 3.2% to -2.8% in 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic.
She stressed the need for a continental financial system integration to implement a mutual system of financial stability for sub-Saharan monetary cooperation, while also urging that Africa builds on progress made from implementing The Afreximbank Exchange Facility.
“We need to ensure that as we build the AfCFTA and trade integration, we begin to build stronger, much more robust monetary and fiscal systems that can ensure that as a continent we actually can work with each other in a more effective way,” Songwe said.
She also urged that the pandemic has given Africa an opportunity to review its poor healthcare infrastructure, citing countries like South Africa, Ethiopia and Morocco developing new healthcare systems.
Songwe was joined on the panel by Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Mr Benedict Okey Oramah, the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mr Wamkele Mene, first Secretary-General of the AfCFTA; Mr Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary-General COMESA; and Paolo Gomes of AfroChampions.
The panelist jointly agreed that the economic crisis due to COVID-19 was an opportunity for Africa to learn lessons on the needs for Industrial developments by producing its own pharmaceutical industry.