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Forum Urges Regional Integration, Mobilization Of Resources For Africa

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Stakeholders and heads of Africa’s leading regional and continental bodies have harped on the need to strengthen regional integration and mobilization of resources to fast-track the continent’s development plan, known as Agenda 2063.

The charge was given by participants at the roundtable organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) on the sidelines of its 2022 Annual Meetings in Accra, Ghana.

The forum was attended by representatives of the African Union Commission, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), regional economic communities, Africa50, and other regional development banks.

The participants also observed that COVID-19 and rising fuel, food and fertilizer prices in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, have raised the stakes, and the urgency to speed up recovery for the continent.

President of AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s gross domestic product fell by 2.1 percent in 2020, the largest drop in two decades.

Dr. Adesina told the participants that Africa would need $484 billion to support recovery efforts, with an additional $7 billion to $15 billion annually to deal with climate change, adding that infrastructure which, according to him, would drive that growth, requires another $68 billion to $108 billion.

“We lost $165 billion and over 30 million jobs. Africa will not industrialize without a sustainable energy source. We have to move beyond trade…It’s manufacturing that brings wealth.

“Where are we going to find that money? The answer is quite simple: by collaboration and determination. We must pull together and push through”, he said.

He also acknowledged that the role of the stakeholders and participants at the roundtable is pivotal. He commended the AfCFTA which became operational in January 2021, marking a major milestone in Africa’s regional integration agenda.

The AfDB chief said the institution had broken ground in establishing the legal, regulatory, and institutional arrangements that will allow Africa to become a single, $3.4 trillion market. “We must make the most of the strengths of every institution around the table to succeed in our goals”, he added.

Notably, the AfCFTA which is currently the world’s largest trading market, has the potential to raise manufacturing output and lift millions out of poverty, making it an important facet of Africa’s economic future.

Secretary General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene told the gathering that the ratification of the AfCFTA agreement is now effective in 43 countries, adding that the body has made progress in harmonizing rules of origin, with a single rule for over 5,000 products. “Another area of success is the achieving for the first time a single set of rules for resolving disputes – we are committed to resolving disputes amicably”, he further explained.

The challenge now, according to him, is to use trade instruments to ensure food security and to accelerate the removal of barriers to international trade. “We have to push through a very difficult phase”, he stressed.

In his contribution, the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Elias Magosi, who spoke via a video link, said the continent desperately needed to move away from producing and exporting raw materials and towards industrialization.

Magosi added that SADC’s main focus would be developing national and regional value chains in areas such as agro-processing and mineral processing.

Similarly, the Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Chileshe Kapwepwe observed that it was essential to make resource mobilization seamless by building capacity building and harmonizing trade requirements. She also underlined the importance of the digital age in e-commerce and e-logistics.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Africa50, Alain Ebobissé, harped on the need to increase the number of bankable infrastructure projects which, he said, would be the building blocks for the continent’s economic growth.

Ebobissé also noted that investment in regional sustainable infrastructure was a must. He praised the AfDB for its mobilizing and coordination role.

With an active portfolio of regional integration projects worth approximately $13 billion, and more than $24 billion worth of investments mobilized for regional infrastructure, the Bank continues to play a central role in the continent’s development architecture.

AfDB’s Acting Senior Vice President, Yacine Fal, who moderated the meeting, said it offered participants the opportunity to strengthen partnerships, mobilize more resources, as well as to take stock of the status of regional integration in Africa.

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