UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has pledged the full support of the UN to the African Union (AU) as the nations begin to earnestly operationalise the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) reported on Sunday, 7 July 2019, that Mohammed made the pledge in Niamey, Niger, at the twelfth extraordinary session of the African Union on the AfCFTA.
Mohammed said the United Nations (UN) was ready to work in partnership with African countries as they move to implement the historic and game-changing AfCFTA.
“We are already working with 16 African governments to develop national strategies to maximise the opportunities created by this agreement and we will increase this number from next year.
“We are committed to working with African institutions to mobilise the resources that will be required for full implementation of the AfCFTA.
“In the first instance, the African Regional Integration Trust Fund will support countries to mobilise resources to finance regional integration,” she said.
The Deputy Secretary-General also said that the UN would work with the AU to coordinate and leverage complementary funding sources from the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Africa 50 Fund, to the AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
She added that the ECA was supporting the process of mainstreaming gender and youth employment initiatives into national strategies.
“This will help to ensure that trade policy is both gender-sensitive and responds to demographic realities, thereby contributing more fully to sustainable development.
“Trade can contribute to either widening or closing inclusion and gender gaps, depending on how the process is managed.
“So, we are also working with governments to counterbalance the distributional and gender-differentiated effects of trade liberalization,” she said.
According to Mohammed, it is essential to act now, not only to ensure that women benefit from the AfCFTA, but also the African youth, given the demographic challenges facing the continent.
Mohammed said that from free trade to climate change and migration, African countries and regional organisations were developing progressive policies that demonstrate global responsibility and forge a new path for multilateralism and sustainability.
“The entire UN system will continue to support African countries as you accelerate the continent’s development.
“Together, we will realise our shared vision of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind,” she added.
The world’s largest free trade area, encompassing 54 countries and 1.2 billion people the AfCFTA is expected to bring the promise of trade-led economic growth closer to reality for Africa’s entrepreneurs, industrialists, investors, innovators and service suppliers.
Nigeria and Benin Republic signed the agreement, bringing the number of countries that have signed the agreement to 54 out of the 55 countries.
Eritrea is yet to sign the treaty.