UN Chief calls for increased efforts to harness Africa’s potential for sustainable growth

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The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has urged a ramping up of efforts to harness the full potential of trade and industrialization in Africa in order to advance sustainable, inclusive growth.

He was addressing the Africa Dialogue Series at the United Nations in the building up to Thursday’s Africa Day commemorations around the world.

At an event focused on unlocking ‘Industrialization through Intra-Africa Trade’, Guterres called the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) a future engine of growth which could lift up to 50 million people out of extreme poverty and reduce income inequalities.

The UN’s Africa Dialogue Series seeks to build on the African Union’s theme for 2023, which is focused on implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area, with a view to boosting the region’s development through industrialization.

Guterres says, “Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, we must ramp up our efforts and harness the full potential of trade and industrialisation to advance sustainable, inclusive growth. The African Continental Free Trade Area is set to be an engine of that growth. Its full implementation could generate income gains of up to 9% by 2035, according to the latest estimates. This would lift up to 50 million people out of extreme poverty and reduce income inequalities.’

‘Breaking down internal barriers’

He highlighted four critical areas towards realising the Free Trade Area,  including the need to boost financial resources and investment while addressing the region’s debt servicing costs; energising intra-African trade and production capacities by breaking down internal barriers.

This included the elimination of tariffs; fortifying energy and digital infrastructure which are vital for African countries to build their manufacturing capacities, innovation and entrepreneurship while investing in human capital.

Guterres says, “We need a people-centered approach to development. The continent’s vibrant, young and innovative population represents a dynamic workforce, as well as a massive market. Creating decent jobs, particularly for women, and promoting education, training and lifelong learning is the best way to ensure Africa’s people fully contribute to the continent’s digital revolution and sustainable growth.”

ACFTA is poised to become the largest free trade zone on the planet with vast implications for the region.

African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat says, “To fully leverage this potential, urgent attention must be given to the establishment of robust regulatory frameworks. We must create an environment that encourages innovation, protects intellectual property, and ensures that privacy and security enabling Africa to participate fully in the global digital economy. The African Union is committed to working with its member States to create a regulatory environment that is conducive to digital services trade, notably through the elaboration of the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa 2020/2023.”

Faki also talks about the rise of Africa’s middle class which he views as presenting a tremendous opportunity for the region’s own industries to flourish. He calls for priority to be given to the development of competitive African businesses that can cater to the demands and preferences of their own customers by connecting the dots between this burgeoning demographic and the Made in Africa movement.