Economic integration

Leveraging AfCFTA to Strengthen Economic Integration – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia and Chair, Transformation Leadership Panel

Former President of Liberia Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provides a ready vehicle for countries in the region to begin the process of moving towards greater autonomy in matters. regional cooperation and integration.

She said Africa may well be at a crossroads as the pandemic has struck at a time when multilateral and global collective action is under threat due to nationalism, isolation and exclusion.

She said it also revealed deep-rooted inequalities, injustices with its additional effects on economies.

“There is a call to ensure that, as we respond to the pandemic, there is a national budget allocation so that we do not use Official Development Assistance (ODA), but national efforts must be surpassed. ”

“What path is Africa following at this crossroads? Should he continue with the status quo of trying to be strong advocates of continued support, and how do we get there? She asked questions at the third African Transformation Forum (ATF) which was held virtually.

Speaking on Africa’s transformation journey in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Sirleaf, who is also the chair of the Transformation Leadership Panel (TLP), which is working to foster deep-rooted change in the 54 African countries, noted that many countries had indeed started well and could be on the road to self-sufficiency.

“But how do you get everyone else into an integrated flow? Fragile states, those that have not performed so well, those that have such strong constraints with an environment that likes the private sector to create jobs for young people. This is an issue that African leaders must address at national, regional and continental levels, ”she explained.

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Innovation and integration

World Bank Group (WBG) Regional Vice President Hafez Ghanem corroborated that innovation can help integration in Africa and vice versa.

He said the WBG strongly believes that Africa needs to take a leap forward in innovation and, in particular, in digital.

“I think a reasonable goal should be for us to have universal internet access in Africa by the end of this decade.

“It’s a goal that is attainable and that is doable. But if we want to talk about universal internet access, we also have to talk about access to electricity and energy, which is also very important, ”he said.

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He said innovation was one of the main lessons learned from the pandemic, so countries with access to the digital economy were able to function and create jobs.

“It’s going to be more important as we go along. Mobile money (Momo) has been important for financial inclusion. Many people in Africa who did not have access to funding are now doing so through momo, ”he said. (IN THIS)

However, he said there was a need to invest more in infrastructure (connectivity) and also to develop the regulatory framework to encourage innovation and investment in technology.

ATF

ATF was held under the auspices of the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) which, for the past 30 years, has been at the forefront of Africa’s transformation agenda.

Its goal is to help governments and the private sector achieve economic transformation that improves lives.

Subsequently, ACET established the TLP in 2019. It is a body of 17 eminent figures from Africa and around the world united by a shared vision and mission: to influence, support and advise leaders on critical and necessary actions to achieve transformative change in Africa in 2030.

Africa Transformation Report

ATF also presented the launch of the third edition of ACET’s flagship publication, “African Transformation Report: Integrating to Transform, 2021” explores the critical need for African countries to work together beyond trade to address common challenges, harness regional opportunities and enable economies to scale and, in turn, accelerate Africa’s economic transformation.

A principal researcher at ACET, Professor John Asafu-Adjaye, said the AfCFTA provides an opportunity for African countries to advance integration beyond trade and markets, towards collaboration to address long-term challenges. term that hinder the development of Africa.

He said the report tackled three of the frontline challenges for development, including; securing productive jobs for Africa’s abundant workforce by equipping them with 21st century skills; supporting digital innovation by enabling the private sector to take advantage of digital technologies to create jobs, boost productivity and reduce poverty; and climate risk management by promoting climate smart agriculture, protecting green and blue ecosystems and harnessing Africa’s abundant renewable energy resources.

“The growing youth population explosion in Africa offers an opportunity to reap a demographic dividend to spur economic growth. This requires a comprehensive strategy focused on policy priorities such as the creation of productive employment opportunities in labor-intensive sectors and the intensification of education and vocational training. , especially for girls, to ensure that workers are well equipped and productive, ”he said.

He added that collaborating to integrate and integrate to transform would require dedicated leadership at all levels.

“It goes beyond politicians to include the public sector, the private sector, academia, the media and civil society,” he said.


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