- Achieving the stated goal of the AfCFTA ‘to create one African market’, will require eliminating unnecessary trade barriers, says President Samia Suluhu Hassan
Dar es Salaam. African leaders yesterday came up with recommendations on how to enhance the role of women and youth in Africa’s economic integration agenda.
The recommendations -- highlighted during the African Continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA) Conference on Women and Youth in Trade in Dar es Salaam yesterday -- include removing all non-tariff barriers (NTBs), investing massively in human resources and enhancing easy access to loans.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who graced the event, said achieving the stated goal of the AfCFTA ‘to create one African market’, will require eliminating unnecessary trade barriers.
The AfCFTA, whose trading started officially on January 1 this year aims at bringing continent-wide free trade to 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc.
“Currently, intra-Africa trade is still very low. It is a shame that we are trading more outside the continent than we do among ourselves,” stressed President Hassan.
Going by the official data, intra-Africa trade is currently standing at approximately 16.6 percent of total Africa exports to the globe.
“We need to remove NTBs, including in infrastructure development, if we are to boost intra-Africa trade,” argued President Hassan.
“We have been talking about regional infrastructure for so long, but without walking the talk. If we do, we will make a very big step.”
She was also of the view that if Africa was to build a strong economy, it should borrow a leaf from China where through science and technology, they had massively invested in youth aged between 18 and 35 years.
“If we walk on China’s footsteps and with abundant resources that Africa is blessed with, our youth will play a pivotal role in shaping our economies,” said the Head of State.
Through investment on youth, she expounded, Africa would stand a chance to utilise the abundant available resources by adding value before putting up for grabs.
Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda called for political will among African countries when it comes to creating an enabling business environment for youth and women.
“Our sons are dying in other countries where they flee to seek for green pastures,” said Ms Banda.
“We need to create a friendly business environment to create opportunities that will make them stay here and not flee their countries.
“For this to happen we need political will. Decisions and actions will translate into opportunities to our people.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Mauritius former President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, saying creating a favourable business environment will give youth a reason not to leave their countries in search of green pastures.
“We need to keep investing in our youth. We need to build confidence in young girls and men,” advised Ms Fakim.
She called for the need to eliminate gender gap in economic participation so that opportunities brought by AfCFTA could be tapped to the maximum.
Uganda Vice President Jessica Alupo called for good laws and policies that will create a conducive business environment for youth and women in the continent.
African countries, she recommended, should create an environment that will enable youth and women to sell finished goods.
“We need to cultivate a culture of exporting what we produce and importing what we cannot produce,” suggested Dr Banda.
President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde said: We Africans need to put our acts together. We need to move fast as much as we can.”
“We have a huge number of creative youth in Africa. If we allow them to come together (cooperate), they will be a game changer.”
Liberia Vice President Jewel Taylor called for African countries to address challenges that were impeding youth and women from ease access to credits from financial institutions.
The Deputy Chairperson of the African Commission, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, expressed the need for having in place supportive policies that will bolster trade within Africa.
“We need to set a stage for preparing youth and women to become the power house of our economies,” she emphasised.
AfCFTA secretary general Wamkele Mene was of suggestion that Africa should cling together and put aside the aspect of competition if achieving the stated aim of the African AfCFTA was to be realised.
“Our focus should be on exploring how we can ensure SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) led by women are at the centre of the benefits of AfCFTA,” he told the conference.
“We need to work hard to ensure that the AfCFTA benefits become a reality so that SMEs could expand investment, markets and create more jobs.”
So far, according to Mr Mene, 43 countries out of 55, have ratified the AfCFTA.