Chaired by the Director of the ECA Regional Integration and Trade Division, Stephen Karingi, the session, which focused on harnessing the AfCFTA for economic resilience and inclusion made recommendations on how the AfCFTA can be leveraged to foster recovery and transformation in Africa, while also reducing inequality and vulnerability.
Responding to the question on how her country is ensuring that the most vulnerable are not left behind, the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning of Rwanda, Claudine Uwera said, “Rwanda is leading the AfCFTA charge with the production of vaccines and critical medicines and pharmaceutical processing.” The AfCFTA, she added, has created opportunities through value chains. The country was the first to ratify the agreement and is in the process of ratifying the Protocol on Trade and Services.
Robert Ochola, Chief Executive Officer of AfricaNenda, Kenya, elaborated on efforts to improve the cost of cash transfers to reduce the cost of trade across borders. “We need to innovate at country level and harmonize policies, create data centers and reinforce capacity building for in-house paying system to reduce costs, he said.
Africa, he lamented, is the most expensive continent for cash transfers.
Focusing on the potential for the AfCFTA in reducing vulnerabilities, Ms. Treasure Maphanga, Chief Operating Officer, AeTrade Group, Rwanda, told the panel that her organization is a social Enterprise working with the AfCFTA Secretariat to accompany them in the implementation of the agreement. “AeTrade Group has set up a trading platform working with women in businesses and promoting trade”, said Ms. Treasure Maphanga. “What is missing is to set goals, such as how many jobs we are going to create. We need an approach of identifying SMEs, especially women and youth-led who are more vulnerable.”
Briggette Harrington, President and Chief Executive Officer, Igire Coffee Company Ltd in Rwanda discussed her company’s experience as one of the first companies to trade with Ghana under the rubric of the AfCFTA. There is more work needed, she said, in standardization and common guidelines for testing of products.
Discussions on the opportunities the health sector can leverage through the AfCFTA, the session noted that Africa remains dependent on imports for up to 90 per cent of its pharmaceutical needs and the export restrictions on key pharmaceutical products that were imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic were a wake-up call for Africa. Michel Sidibé, the African Union Special Envoy for the African Medicines Agency explained that one of the priority sectors for AfCFTA is health and access to medicines. “AfCFTA can help us transform the pharmaceutical industry and grow it into a manufacturing powerhouse. He called for more promotion of local production, research and transfer of technologies and innovation.
Yusuf Daya, AFREXIM Bank Relations and Trade Policy Expert said that the AfCFTA is an opportunity to take Africa forward by moving up the value chains. “Countries have to take measures to invest in capacity building, retooling and investing in long-term measures to have significant impact. The Bank is working with the AfCFTA Secretariat to create an Adjustment Fund to support the implementation of the AfCFTA.