The robust growth experienced by many African countries before COVID-19 has been lost due to the pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday, stressing the need to intensify efforts towards a single trading market on the continent. .
Mr. Guterres was speaking on the final day of the annual African Dialogue Series in New York, where this year’s focus was on accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will be the largest in the world.
seize the potential
He said the pandemic brought with it high food and energy prices, made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, exacerbating poverty, inequality and food insecurity.
Governments have also faced rising interest rates, increasing borrowing potential, while climate change has created deadly floods and droughts, contributing to the risk of famine.
“Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union 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 the participants.
Millions could escape poverty
He said that AfCFTA is destined to be a driver of that growth.
“Its full implementation could generate revenue gains of up to nine percent by 2035, according to the latest estimates. This would lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty and reduce income inequalities,” he added.
The Secretary General stressed that realizing 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 holding back intra-African trade and production capacities must also be broken down, including by removing tariffs, building “made in Africa” supply chains, and harmonizing regulations that allow for 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.
“We need to drive the industrialization of Africa and harness technology to overcome outdated infrastructure and move directly towards the fourth industrial revolution,” Mr. Guterres said.
The continent is also blessed with resources that could make it a leader in clean energy, he added, and the sector could generate more than six million jobs by mid-century. Yet Africa has received only two percent of global investment in renewable energy over the past decade.
invest in people
His final point stressed investing in “human capital”, with Africa’s vibrant, young and innovative population representing both a dynamic workforce and a mass market.
“Creating decent jobs, particularly for women, and promoting education, training and lifelong learning is the best way to ensure that the people of Africa contribute fully to the digital revolution and sustainable growth of the continent” , said.
The African Dialogues series brings together politicians and decision-makers, experts, academics, civil society representatives, youth and other stakeholders to examine the challenges and opportunities affecting the continent.
It is organized by the Office of the United Nations Special Adviser for Africa (OSAA) and its partners.