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Representatives of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia have called for urgent need to coordinate the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement implementation strategies to realize national and regional interests and priorities.

Representatives of the five Maghreb AfCFTA signatory African countries made the urgent call during a joint seminar organized by the ECA and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) on the Potential Impact of the AfCFTA on Maghreb economies, according to an ECA statement issued on Friday.

Participants attending the seminar “stressed the urgent need to coordinate their countries’ AfCFTA implementation strategies to ensure national and regional interests and priorities are taken into account,” the statement read.

They also called on the UMA General Secretariat “to provide them with enhanced support by facilitating joint discussions in preparation for the realization of the African single market.”

The seminar, which was held under the theme the “Potential Impact of the AFCFTA on Maghreb Economies,” brought together high-level experts and policymakers including UMA Secretary General Taieb Baccouche, Mauritanian Minister of Commerce and Tourism Sid’Ahmed Ould Mohamed, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga as well as chief AfCFTA negotiators from the five Maghreb countries.

“Maghreb integration is a milestone in the regional integration process, and is now more relevant than ever in view of the similarity of development challenges, and the opportunities it represents in terms of growth and employment, given the sub-region’s strategic position,” said Lilia Hachem Naas, Director of the ECA Office for North Africa.

The ECA director further argued that real Maghreb integration would strengthen member states’ negotiating power, encourage trade and investment, and facilitate economies of scale by increasing the size of markets, eventually making public policies more predictable by anchoring them in a regional perspective.

Recent ECA studies have revealed that Maghreb integration, one of the eight pillars of AfCFTA implementation and African integration, can enable Maghreb countries to diversify their economies, accelerate their structural transformation and generate employment.

The ECA, however, stressed that the Maghreb region is currently “the least integrated sub-region of Africa. In 2018, for example, only 3.34 percent of UMA countries’ exports were aimed at the Maghreb market.”

AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, also stressed that the continental free trade pact “is a huge undertaking that has raised expectations across Africa.”

“With this huge responsibility of not creating a crisis of expectations, Africa’s only choice is to succeed in implementing the AfCFTA Agreement,” Muchanga stressed. Enditem

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