The African Continental Free Trade Area can be an ideal launch pad for the continent’s industrialisation drive. 

This is the overwhelming view of delegates at an African Union trade summit in Niamey, Niger.

Speaking at the summit, Antonio Pedro acting executive secretary of United Nations Economic Commission said “we can convert our resources to the real blessings they are rather than allow them to continue to be a curse imposed on us. 

“And the AfCFTA provides the best possible launch pad for African industrialisation.”

According to him, the agreement alone cannot guarantee African industrialisation it needs to be implemented by members countries.

“And it needs to be implemented by each of its individual State Parties in such a way as to promote industrialisation and sustainable development across the Continent.

“The industrialization is critical for Africa for both primary products, agricultural goods which accounted bulk exports to the world, besides processed products dominate imports.

“Between 2016 and 2021 fuels accounted for the largest share of African’s total exports, ranging from 29% to 43% in any given year, and averaging 37% over the period. At a more granular level, petroleum and petroleum-related products comprise the largest percentage,” he added.

He said Africa’s internal trade is much more balanced, trade in mineral fuels averages only around 20% of intra-African exports. 

In its place manufactured goods and food items make up a significantly larger share of intra-African trade reducing Africa’s reliance on exports of raw materials.  

He said that industrialists have to invest in a manufacturing plant based in Africa and African industrialists being the champions of endogeneous growth and structural transformation in order to achieve transformational change Africa will need more investment in plant manufacturing at a larger scale.

The African Continental Free Trade Area seeks to transform Africa from a raw materials supplier by enabling countries to add value, extract higher rents from commodities, integrate into global value chains. 

Reporting by Mariama Marong, in Niamey, Niger

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