UNITED Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) economic affairs officer Bineswaree Bolaky has urged African countries to accelerate commodity based industrialization, manufacturing and regional value chain development.
Addressing the media during a UNECA conference recently, Bolaky said the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) could not deliver benefits unless countries accelerated implementation of industrialization strategies.
“This year we are advocating for countries on the kind of reforms and policy measures they have to put in place to better harness the ACFTA. A big message is to of course encourage countries to ratify the ACFTA but also to think strategically on how can we really translate this African union project into tangible benefits for Southern Africans themselves? For instance, what kind of reforms are needed in terms of implementing the agreement which is very important, reducing the tariff, reducing the non tariff barriers,” she said.
“We know the ACFTA cannot deliver benefits unless countries accelerate implementation of industrialization strategies so that they produce more goods and services, more diverse goods and services that will allow them to trade more with one another. So a big message of this meeting is that accelerating commodity based industrialization, manufacturing and regional value chain development is critical.”
Bolaky said Southern Africa had been the worst hit economically and it was therefore important to chart the way forward on how to build back better.
“If you look at all the sub regions of Africa, Southern Africa has been the worst hit economically. Our growth rate has slumped more than other countries. So it is important now for us this year to support member states in charting the way forward on how to build back better. What we are saying is that it is opportune now for countries to accelerate commodity based industrialization, manufacturing and regional value chain development,” said Bolaky.
“As you may know, last month in September, the African Union released the AU commodity strategies that carry the same message that we need to accelerate industrialization, reduce dependency on commodities. So the aim of this meeting is every year we gather to explain to our member states to whom we are accountable, what has been our major results and accomplishments for the year and also to discuss and set our priorities for our growth programme next year.”
And speaking at the same event, COMESA secretary general Chileshe Kapwepwe noted that growth in the COMESA region declined from 5.0 percent in 2018 to 3.1 percent in 2019, while the economies contracted by 3.0 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“This 27th meeting comes at a challenging period for the whole world, more so for our regional economies, which have suffered massive pushback. Here, I am referring to the missed development gains as the disruption of supply routes undermined our export sectors, resulting in reduced domestic economic activity. Equally, our highly import-dependent and small manufacturing and industrial sectors were devastated as operational capacity dwindled due to the disrupted import lines for spares and production inputs. Consequently, growth in the COMESA region declined from 5.0 percent in 2018 to 3.1 percent in 2019 and the economies contracted by 3.0 percent in 2020,” she said.
“Furthermore, since the start of the pandemic, the region has lost 59,267 citizens from 2,059,800 positive cases. We have noted with appreciation, the commendable efforts by Member States to address the fallout from the pandemic through fiscal and monetary stimuli, which have gone a long way in cushioning the adverse effects. However, growth prospects remain modest due to the slow access and rollout of vaccines in the region.”
Kapwepwe said COMESA had developed regional guidelines to facilitate increased and sustainable local industrial production of goods and services, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are still not out of the woods yet; our development endeavors continue to be undermined by the Coronavirus pandemic. At the Tripartite level, we have continued to join efforts deployed by our Member States through the adoption of Guidelines on trade during the COVID-19 pandemic period. At the same time, we continue to increase the intra-COMESA trade by implementing initiatives such as the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade and strengthening the regional supply and value chains. We have also developed regional guidelines to facilitate increased and sustainable local industrial production of goods and services, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kapwepwe.
“As COMESA, we strongly believe in the central role of the private sector in unlocking the developmental value in our commodities and thus continue to urge our Member States to develop conducive operational environments, guided by attendant regional frameworks, including the COMESA Common Investment Area. As we build back better and faster, we should eliminate barriers and impediments to the active participation of the private sector through the creation of a harmonized competitive policy environment across the region. I reaffirm COMESA’s commitment to continued collaboration in addressing regional development challenges as we progress towards Agendas 2030 and 2063.”