The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) on Friday agreed to expedite infrastructure connectivity efforts to ensure full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The AU and ECA revealed their joint commitment towards the success of the African free trade pact during the meeting of ECA’s Executive Secretary Vera Songwe with AU’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Raila Odinga, at the ECA headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, the ECA said in a statement issued on Friday.
“The two agreed that fast-tracking trans-boundary infrastructure on the continent was the only way to ensure full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) for the benefit of its citizens,” an ECA statement read.
The two officials’ meeting came a day after the African free trade pact took effect on Thursday, following the agreement’s ratification by 22 countries last month, meeting the minimum threshold for it to take effect and is set to enter into force on May 30.
Songwe and Odinga, among other things, discussed ways through which the ECA can support ongoing efforts to “ensure the continent speedily tackles its infrastructure challenges.”
Accelerating regional integration was also said to be the major aspiration of the two pan African institutions, as the two officials agreed that “Africa needed to fast-track trans-boundary energy and transport infrastructure, including key road corridors, if that is to become a reality soon.”
“One of the things we are busy working on here at the ECA is the nexus between trade and infrastructure and how we can use it, particularly in the Horn of Africa where we are trying to see how we can use the regional integration and trade conversation to build and capitalize on the peace momentum,” said Songwe.
They also stressed cooperation in Africa’s key trans-boundary infrastructure projects including the Trans-African Highways Network, the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor, which is said to be “East Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project,” as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Grand Inga Dam, among others.
The two officials also agreed to work together in sustainable infrastructure projects so as to spur industrialization and job creation across Africa.
According to the 55-member pan African bloc, the AfCFTA has laid the foundation for what could be the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of participating countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion dollars.
Once operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the ECA.