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ASWAN - 29 November 2019: Although the North Africa region is endowed with most of the structural components of a dynamic, integrated market (e.g. proximity, infrastructures, linguistic and cultural affinity, etc.) its insufficient integration is depriving its economies from opportunities to grow and widen the scope for job creation. In this context, Trade facilitation and its impact on employment is a crucial issue, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said.
At the conclusion of the 34th Inter-Governmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for North Africa (CIHFE), participants called the implementation of trade facilitation measures to be accelerated in North Africa in order to maximize the benefits and fulfill the AfCFTA potential, especially in the areas of investment and employment, ECA said in a statement issued on Friday.
Country representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, academics and representatives of the private sector and civil society took part in this event, organized under the theme; "The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Employment: The Impact of an Improved Trade Facilitation and Regional Integration in North Africa".
As North Africa struggles with high unemployment rates, is it possible to look at how countries can do more trade with each other? When 64% of imports come from the European Union, North African countries are essentially exporting their labour, said ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe in a video message to participants, adding that, the more African countries trade with each other, the more North African youths should be able to work.
“Africa is gifted with an abundance of natural and energy resources, outstanding geographical locations, as well as many ports that facilitate access to and within our African countries. Our region is also endowed with a wealth of human resources with a massive, 1.3 billion population, which constitutes a large market for African products and an abundance of labour which, if properly used, can enhance regional competitiveness, said the Egyptian Deputy Minister for Planning Affairs Ahmad Kamaly in a speech read on behalf of the Minister of Planning Monitoring and Administrative Reform Hala Elsaid.
“As African countries, we therefore need to work together – governments, private sectors and civil society – to maximize the use of our available resources and claim the benefits of the AfCFTA. To this end, there is a need for higher investment in infrastructure projects that can support intra African trade and investment so as to create decent and productive jobs for our nations, and to achieve inclusive and sustainable development”, he added.
“This session and the Expert Group Meeting are indeed an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a successful start of the AfCFTA [in North Africa]. This is an opportunity to collaborate more closely and reflect together on appropriate measures and operational recommendations to facilitate the promotion of intra-African trade and investment in the North African region and to contribute to the roadmap for the implementation of the AfCFTA”, said Kalthoum Hamzaoui, outgoing Chair of the ICSOE Bureau.
The ICSOE meeting provided member country representatives with an opportunity to take stock of the work carried out by the ECA Office for North Africa, its programme of work as well as its strategic orientations for the coming year.
Participants analyzed regional integration implementation in North Africa and identify how enhanced regional integration in North Africa can help rejuvenate the economic landscape and increase job creation through more sustainable and balanced growth.
In addition, participants reviewed the current socio-economic context and present recommendations on strategies to help accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063 in North Africa.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA or ECA) was established in 1958 by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN as one of the UN's five regional commissions, ECA's mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa's development.