(Addis Ababa) – Inclusive economic growth across Africa hinges on ensuring greater value addition in manufacturing, agriculture and services. The successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be critical to ensuring this. That was the message from public and private-sector leaders at the opening of the 19th World Export Development Forum (WEDF) taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 20 November. The opening of WEDF 2019 coincided with the 30th anniversary of Africa Industrialization Day reaffirming the event’s focus on addressing key priorities of the African continent.
Opening the event, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde said: ‘It is high time to expedite [of the African Continental Free Trade Area] implementation in order to unleash a complementary economic ecosystem among African nations’.
‘It is imperative we leverage the collective market size that we have as a continent,’ she said. ‘By creating a complementary economic system, we will be able to reap the full potential of our respective nations and become a major player in the international trade arena.’
Co-hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission, the meeting brings together more than 1,000 business leaders, policymakers, and young entrepreneurs from across Africa and beyond to better exploit the opportunities for growth through trade.
ITC Executive Director Arancha González said: ‘There is a need to create and add more value to Africa’s economies, to ensure growth and better sharing of increased prosperity. For this to happen more goods and services need to be made in Africa and more trade needs to happen between countries across the continent’.
‘Manufacturing is a very important part of the value addition story, but its only one part. The goal must now be to achieve greater value addition and competitiveness across the board: in industry but also in agriculture and agro-processing and services,’ she said.
Ms. González added that for Africa to climb the value-addition ladder there is a need for better trade data and intelligence; investment facilitation measures; investment in the digital economy; and new skills and expertise.
‘This multiplicity of action areas means that policy coherence is the name of the game. All parts of the mechanism must work together,’ Ms. González said.
Albert M. Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, called for the creation of a more enabling environment to boost access to finance, competitiveness and innovation. He said: ‘The key drivers of industrialization will be the private sector. Mindful of this; we are providing a large market space through the African Continental Free Trade Area hence the theme: Positioning African Industry to Supply the AfCFTA Market’.
‘Moving forward, we now need to focus on the development of industrial statistics that cover all African countries. The data will give us evidence of what is going on at the enterprise, national and continental levels’.
Taking place at the African Union headquarters during Africa Industrialization Week, sessions at WEDF on 21-22 November will explore topics such as investing in value addition, addressing the skills mismatch, producing sustainable packaging and much more.
A key focus will be placed on the African Continental Free Trade Area and how this can fulfil its promise of unlocking Africa’s economic growth potential. According to ITC data, removing tariffs across the continent could add 13% to intra-African trade.
Read ITC Executive Director Arancha González’s speech in full.