Emerging technologies remain key in promoting economic growth, transformation and expansion of digital trade in Africa, according to a report on the First Session of the Committee on Private Sector Development, Regional Integration, Trade, Infrastructure, Industry and Technology.
The report was presented at a session on Private Sector Development and the Digital Economy in support of Regional Integration in Africa during the 39th ECA Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Addis Ababa, monitored by the Ghana News Agency.
The report says over the years, there had been increased transformation of digital technology in Africa, home to 11.5 per cent of the world’s total internet users.
Francis Ikome, Chief of the Regional Integration Section in the Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, who presented the report said “There is increased African participation in technologies in support of continent’s transformation and achievement of sustainable development goals.”
“But there is still need to harness emerging technology to assist implementation of the AfCFTA in regional economic communicates (RECs).”
ECA estimates an increase of intra-African exports of industrial products by 15-25 per cent in 2040 due to the AfCFTA.
All African countries, except Eritrea, have signed the AfCFTA and 37 had ratified the pact by January 2021.
“We are urging other countries to accelerate the process. ECA will assist in the development of national strategies on AfCFTA to facilitate ratification processes and phase II & III of negotiations,” said Mr. Ikome.
The report indicated that progress had been made in accelerating the regional integration agenda by the continent. But there were mixed results with slow pace of implementation in some areas such as free movement persons. Regional integration continues to face challenges, including financial, human capacity and security issues.
It was observed during the meeting that Africa’s limited liability companies (LLCs) need enhanced support in the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries (VPoA) to reap the full benefit of the AfCFTA.
Mr. Ikome said the ECA will continue to support Africa’s regional integration efforts through the Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA) report, the Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII) and negotiations on AfCFTA processes.
Infrastructure, the report says, remains one of the key drivers for economic development in Africa. However, financing infrastructure projects remained a big challenge to member States, particularly in the area of electricity and energy.
“Development of regulatory frameworks for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to finance infrastructure development is critical,” noted Mr. Ikome.
“Member States need to use alternative sources to finance infrastructure development, including private equity funds.”
He said inclusion of digital economy for women empowerment in support of regional integration and the AfCFTA was crucial as were huge investments in science, technology & innovations.
Mr. Ikome said member States, RECs and the private sector should leverage from fourth industrial revolution and develop ICT as an enabler for the digital economy.
The report recommended that the ECA and other partners support more member States in the development of national strategies to accelerate AfCFTA implementation; enhance monitoring of the regional integration agenda; deepen analytical work on impact and benefits of the AfCFTA; support research that focused on key drivers of science and innovations; and assist countries in Phase II & III AfCFTA negotiations.
Member States were urged to accelerate the ratification of protocols of the AfCFTA and Free Movement of Persons which were key in promoting regional integration.
The report recommended that RECs mainstream the Action Plan of Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) into their programs with the ECA and partners, urging them to enhance support towards capacity building for the RECs and member States to implement their industrialization policies.