By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Sustained agriculture will be the economic growth spinner for the continent and is capable of doubling crop output in excess of US$1 billion if implemented expeditiously during the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said.
The AfCFTA-single market was launched in Niger on 7 July this year after over 22 countries, including South Africa and Ethiopia, among other African major powers, ratified the new treaty during the African Union Heads of State and Government Extraordinary Summit.
Said Adejumobi, ECA director, underscored the need to promote the sector as the lifeblood for Africa during a regional meeting on the Agenda 2030 hosted by South Africa recently dubbed, “Manufacturing in Africa: Opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”.
At the meeting held to create awareness and knowledge for the private sector and aimed at promoting increased engagement with the private sector and enable ownership of the vision 2030 and 2063, Adejumobi noted that once nurtured, agriculture could raise the continent’s economic profile from US$500 million since 2015 and create an additional 14 million stable well-paid jobs
A statement seen by The Southern Times on the meeting sought to create awareness among the private sector deemed to be champions of the AfCFTA agenda as they are expected to support the mobilisation of resources and ensure the realisation of the agenda, and called for development and harnessing of the sector.
Agriculture, Adejumobi said, has the drive to enhance economic transformation in Africa, creating jobs, increasing government revenue, and ensuring accelerated economic growth and development.
“The private sector is encouraged to assume the driver’s seat in the implementation of the AfCFTA as they will benefit from it through increased business, expansion and profit potentials,” Adejumobi said.
The ECA director focused on the conceptual notion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), its background and its precursor, the Millennium Development Goals, progress and shortfalls, key elements of Agenda 2030, implementation and monitoring, and threats and risks to the realisation of Agenda 2030.
The Agenda 2030 constitutes a global commitment and roadmap in accelerating socio-economic development in the world, in which “nobody should be left behind”. The agenda seeks to create minimum standards of development in which countries will make progress and all people will live decent lives.
Meanwhile, the director for trade at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Francis Mangeni, lauded African leaders for their commitment towards realising the ACFTA.
“This impetus towards closer economic integration is poised to change Africa forever. The entry into force of the AfCFTA is a truly momentous event,” Mangeni said.
“The irony is stark, that amidst current global trade wars, Africa is now the torch bearer of multilateralism and open economies.”
African economic integration was developmental integration, designed to promote structural transformation, rather than being a traditional FTA obsessed primarily with market liberalisation. AfCFTA covers goods and services and has complementary programmes for infrastructure development, industrialisation, agriculture modernisation, small-scale trade, as well as innovation, intellectual property, competition and investment.
Now, he adds, was the time for increased investment in Africa with a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$8 trillion in purchasing power parity, business and consumer spending at US$4 billion with over 400 companies with revenues of over US$1 billion, 60 percent of the world’s arable land and vast strategic minerals.
For African politics, private sector and intellectual leadership, the call of duty now was to ensure that this trajectory was irreversible and that decent jobs and incomes were equitably generated from increasing trade and investment.
However, he cautioned leaders to take heed of some of the initial stop gaps to avert AfCFTA failure. He cited trade documents, tariff schedules, rules of origin and a system for addressing non-tariff barriers as being essential.
“Countries need to be able to issue and process especially the new AfCFTA customs declarations and certificates of origin. Tariff schedules should be in place. Without them, one would not know the payable customs duties under AfCFTA on the 5,000 or so tradable products.
“Bilateral negotiation of tariff offers would be too complex and take an overly long time. Every member state customs territory should therefore just produce a tariff schedule without further delay, covering 90 percent of the products on which the tariff phase down is to commence immediately.”