By Tasie Theodore
Senegal is set to host a regional forum between June 24-25 on issues related to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its impact on the West and Central Africa regions, The Difference has learnt.
The session which is being put together by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), the Government of Senegal, the African Union (AU) Commission and the European Union, EU will involve regional and multi-stakeholder dialogue on issues related to the implementation of the AfCFTA in the French-speaking Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Under the theme “Implementing the AfCFTA: Deepening Africa’s Integration for a Prosperous Continent,” policymakers, business, civil society organizations and research institutions will make recommendations on the ways and means to implement the AfCFTA so as to secure inclusive and sustainable change for the economies of the sub-region, particularly in terms of industrialization, economic diversification and job creation.
“This forum aims to foster constructive exchanges to learn from other regional integration frameworks and ultimately assess the extent to which Regional Economic Communities can serve as a foundation for unlocking the trade potential of the AfCFTA in West and Central Africa,” observes Adeyinka Adeyemi, ECA Senior Advisor to the African Trade Policy Center (ATPC)
At the two day session which takes place in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, participants would share ideas on themes that include AfCFTA as a home-grown initiative to promote integration and boost industrial competitiveness and job creation in Africa; public policies for successful trade integration and digitalization to stimulate economic diversification, promote industrial competitiveness and support job creation and AfCFTA as a catalyst for investment.
Others are trade facilitation to unlock the potential of the AfCFTA for West and Central Africa and stimulating the manufacturing sector: the case of the Pharmaceutical industry value chain.
Breaking it down, supplementary group sessions will focus on how AfCFTA will benefit ECOWAS and ECCAS, Women and Youth Entrepreneurship and AfCFTA’s relations with civil society and development partners.
Underscoring the rationale behind the strategy to dovetail the discussions onto the regional plane, the Nigeria-born Adeyemi says:
“The effective implementation of the AfCFTA has a number of strengths and also challenges which are specific to the West and Central African region…These regional peculiarities must be evaluated in consultation with all the key players so that they can benefit fully from a continental free trade area”.
Senegal, hosts of the discussions is one of the fastest growing economies in the region and continent at the moment with 2018 growth figures of 7.0 per cent according to data obtained from the African Development Bank.
The AfCFTA scheme is due to be launched in July in Niamey, Niger Republic and 52 of the continent’s 55 member states have already signed up to participate in what would arguably be the world’s single largest free trade area in history.
President Macky Sall of Senegal