The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has called for boosting intra-Africa trade through the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement to eliminate poverty and inequality in southern Africa.
The call came during a meeting of the intergovernmental committee of senior officials and experts of southern Africa, emphasizing the strategic importance of the AfCFTA in reducing poverty and inequality, particularly in the southern African region.
Hanan Morsy, deputy executive secretary and chief economist at the UNECA, said in a UNECA statement issued late Wednesday that poverty and inequality remain entrenched in southern Africa and continue to pose a challenge toward the achievement of a prosperous society and “the Africa we want.”
She said the southern Africa region faced overlapping challenges that hinder its ability to leverage its comparative advantage and endowments to drive economic development while addressing poverty and inequality.
“The opportunities created by the AfCFTA will stimulate increased trade and investment, promote value addition, foster innovation and productivity growth, both at national and regional levels, and consequently contribute to the reduction of poverty, vulnerability, and inequality,” said Morsy.
She called for the expeditious implementation of the continental free trade pact by regional member states.
Botswanan Minister of Trade and Industry Mmusi Kgafela said southern Africa has been facing multiple challenges that have exacerbated poverty and inequality, making it imperative to accelerate trade and industrialization to boost the region’s economic growth.
Citing the COVID-19 after-effects, the geopolitical tension in Europe and the effects of climate change which have combined to undermine the regional development agenda, Kgafela said southern Africa had no option but to move a gear up on industrialization and boost trade in the context of the AfCFTA.
“Boosting intra-Africa trade through the AfCFTA will generate immense benefits for our regional economies,” the statement quoted Kgafela as saying. He highlighted the gravity of the challenges of poverty and inequality in southern Africa and how trade and industrialization could create jobs and raise incomes.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretary-General Chileshe Kapwepwe, said COMESA, as one of the eight Regional Economic Commissions recognized by the African Union as building blocks toward successful implementation of the AfCFTA, is committed to continental integration and specifically implementation of the free trade pact.