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African experts and policymakers on Thursday called for integrating the digital economy with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) so as to harness potentials of the continental free trade pact.

The call was made by the Committee on Private Sector, Regional Integration, Trade, Infrastructure, Industry and Technology, comprising senior officials and experts from African Union (AU) member states, as they meet from Dec. 11 to 12 at the UN Conference center in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa under the theme “Private Sector Development and the Digital Economy in support of Regional integration in Africa.”

Director of Regional Integration and Industrialization Division at the ECA, Stephen Karingi, said that the AfCFTA could increase intra-African trade by as much as 15 to 25 percent, compared to a scenario with no AfCFTA in place.

“With this in mind, an increase in trade in itself is not as interesting as the composition of the trade created and around two-thirds of the gain is expected to be derived from industrial goods, providing a good environment for diversification of the African economies,” Karingi stressed.

The ECA director also stressed that the increase in trade is expected to provide good quality jobs and improve livelihoods on the ground and the African continent “will also benefit from strengthened regional supply chains.”

“While the economic gains are clear, they will not be automatic. The AfCFTA provides the platform through which new industrialization pathways can be realized, by harnessing the opportunities digitalization offers,” Karingi said.

According to Karingi, the continental free trade pact “has to go beyond goods and services and a working dispute settlement… it has to embrace the digital age in which it is coming into life.”

During the meeting, the African Union (AU) Commission and the ECA also revealed the completion of a joint Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, which will be presented at the AU Summit in February 2020 for consideration by African leaders.

The Digital Transformation Strategy is expected to help unlock the potential of the digital economy. Enditem

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