Heads of Africa’s leading regional and continental bodies on Thursday met to discuss how to fast-track the continent’s development plan, known as Agenda 2063. Covid-19 and rising fuel, food and fertilizer prices in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, have raised the stakes, and the urgency to speed up recovery.
The roundtable was organized by the African Development Bank Group, on the sidelines of its 2022 Annual Meetings, currently under way in Accra, Ghana. It was attended by representatives of the African Union Commission, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), regional economic communities, Africa50, and other regional development banks.
African Development Bank Acting Senior Vice President Yacine Fal, who moderated the meeting, said it offered participants the opportunity to strengthen partnerships, mobilize more resources, as well as to take stock of the status of regional integration in Africa.
In opening remarks, African Development Bank chief Akinwumi A. Adesina noted that Africa would need $484 billion to support recovery efforts, with an additional $7 billion to $15 billion annually to deal with climate change. Infrastructure, which would drive that growth, requires another $68 billion to $108 billion, Adesina said.
“Where are we going to find that money? The answer is quite simple: by collaboration and determination. We must pull together and push through,” he said.
Adesina commended the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which became operational in January 2021, marking a major milestone in Africa’s regional integration agenda. He said the institution had broken ground in establishing the legal, regulatory, and institutional arrangements that will allow Africa to become a single, $3.4 trillion market. “We must make the most of the strengths of every institution around the table to succeed in our goals,” he said.
AfCFTA, the world’s largest trading market, has the potential to raise manufacturing output and lift millions out of poverty, making it an important facet of Africa’s economic future.
Ratification of the AfCFTA agreement is now effective in 43 countries, Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of AfCFTA, told the gathering. The body has made progress in harmonizing rules of origin, with a single rule for over 5,000 products. “Another area of success is the achieving for the first time a single set of rules for resolving disputes – we are committed to resolving disputes amicably.” The challenge, Mene said, is now to use trade instruments to ensure food security and to accelerate the removal of barriers to international trade. “We have to push through a very difficult phase,” Mene said.
Speaking via videolink, Elias M. Magosi, Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the continent desperately needed to move away from producing and exporting raw materials and towards industrialization. SADC’s main focus would be developing national and regional value chains in areas such as agro-processing and mineral processing, Magosi said.
The Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Chileshe Kapwepwe, said it was essential to make resource mobilization seamless by building capacity building and harmonizing trade requirements. She also underlined the importance of the digital age in e-commerce and e-logistics.
Alain Ebobissé, CEO of Africa50, evoked the need to increase the number of bankable infrastructure projects which would be the building blocks for the continent’s economic growth. He said investment in regional sustainable infrastructure was a must. He praised the African Development Bank for its mobilizing and coordination role.
With an active portfolio of regional integration projects worth approximately $13 billion, and more than $24 billion worth of investments mobilized for regional infrastructure, the African Development Bank continues to play a central role in the continent’s development architecture.
Adesina told the participants their role was pivotal. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Africa’s gross domestic product fell by 2.1% in 2020 — the largest drop in two decades.
“We lost $165 billion and over 30 million jobs,” Adesina said. “Africa will not industrialize without a sustainable energy source. “We have to move beyond trade…It’s manufacturing that brings wealth,” Adesina said.
The well-attended meeting included Elias Magosi, Executive Secretary, Southern African Development Community; Gilberto Piedade Veríssimo, Executive Secretary, Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States; Taïeb Baccouche, Secretary General, Arab Maghreb Union; Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Authority on Development; Admassu Tadesse, President Emeritus, TDB Group; Serge Ekue, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, West African Development Bank; Mike Kuria Deputy Executive, EAC Inter-University Council of East Africa; Mahamadou Gado, Commissioner, West African Economic and Monetary Union; Chileshe Kapwepwe, Secretary General, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa; Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President, Economic Commission of West African States; Mohan Vivekanandan, Group Executive, Development Bank of Southern Africa.