United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted on Wednesday that the strong growth that many African countries experienced before COVID-19 was lost due to the pandemic. He highlighted the need to intensify efforts towards a single trade market on the continent.

Mr. Guterres made the remarks on the final day of the Annual Africa Dialogue in New York, where the focus this year was to accelerate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), expected to be the largest in the world.

Harness the potential:

The Secretary-General noted that the pandemic caused rising food and energy prices, aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has exacerbated poverty, inequalities and food insecurity. Governments have also faced rising interest rates, increasing the potential for debt, while climate change has caused deadly floods and droughts, contributing to the risk of famine.

“Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, we must intensify our efforts and harness the full potential of trade and industrialization to promote sustainable and inclusive growth,” the UN chief told participants. .

Millions could escape poverty:

He highlighted that the AfCFTA is intended to be an engine of that growth.

“Its full implementation could generate revenue gains of up to nine percent by 2035, according to the most recent estimates. “This would lift up to 50 million people out of extreme poverty and reduce income inequalities,” he added.

The Secretary-General emphasized that delivering on the promise of the AfCFTA requires action in four critical areas, starting with boosting access to financial resources and investment.

"We need a fundamental reform of the global financial system so that Africa is represented at the highest level," he said.

Barriers to intra-African trade and production capacities must also be removed, including the elimination of tariffs, the creation of “made in Africa” supply chains and the harmonization of regulations that allow investment.

Take advantage of technology:

His third point focused on energy and digital infrastructure, which are vital for African countries to develop their manufacturing capabilities and harness the full potential of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Invest in people:

His final point highlighted investment in “human capital,” as Africa's vibrant, young and innovative population represents both a dynamic workforce and a mass market.

"Creating decent jobs, especially for women, and promoting education, training and lifelong learning is the best way to ensure that people in Africa contribute fully to the digital revolution and the continent's sustainable growth," he said.

Annual dialogue

The African Dialogue Series brings together political and decision-makers, experts, academics, civil society representatives, youth and other actors to examine the challenges and opportunities affecting the continent.

The series is organized by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) and its partners.

Source: UN news