ADDIS ABEBA – United Nations pledged full support to the African Union as nations begin to earnestly operationalize the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed, on Sunday said the UN stands ready to work in partnership with African countries.
“We are already working with 16 African governments to develop national strategies to maximise the opportunities created by this agreement, and we will increase this number from next year,” she told the summit.
“We are committed to working with African institutions to mobilize the resources that will be required for full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. In the first instance, the African Regional Integration Trust Fund will support countries to mobilize resources to finance regional integration.”
Ms. Mohammed said the UN will work with the African Union to coordinate and leverage complementary funding sources from the African Development Bank’s Africa50 Fund, to the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is supporting the process of mainstreaming gender and youth employment initiatives into national strategies.
“This will help to ensure that trade policy is both gender-sensitive and responds to demographic realities, thereby contributing more fully to sustainable development,” the UN Deputy Chief said.
“Trade can contribute to either widening or closing inclusion and gender gaps, depending on how the process is managed. So we are also working with governments to counterbalance the distributional and gender-differentiated effects of trade liberalization.”
Ms. Mohammed said it was essential to act now, not only to ensure that women benefit from the AfCFTA but also the African youth, given the demographic challenges facing the continent.
AfCFTA is expected to create the world’s largest free trade area and lead to around a 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022.
Only 16% of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014.