The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) offers a major opportunity for African countries to cushion the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and is a vehicle for continued recovery to boost growth, reduce poverty and broaden economic inclusion.
This observation was made during a high-level panel discussion at the 2021 African Economic Conference (AEC), which took place in a hybrid format, with key delegates gathered on the Cabo Verde island of Sal, as well as virtually.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area is a stimulus for Africa’s socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and a driver of sustainable development particularly for women and youth in Africa,” said Joy Kategekwa, Strategic Advisor to the Assistant Administrator and Regional Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Speaking on the issue of inclusive access to development finance under the AfCFTA, Nadira Bayat, Senior Gender and Trade Specialist for UN Women, called for practical economic empowerment interventions specifically for women-led businesses under the AfCFTA post COVID-19.
“Operationalizing an inclusive AfCFTA that encompasses women economic empowerment outcomes requires closing the persistent gender gap in access to finance,” Bayat underlined.
Echoing the same sentiments, Kategekwa stated that adequate access to financial services depends on the application of a regulatory framework. This, according to Kategekwa, highlights the need for a policy mix that creates the conditions to strengthen both the provision of financial services and the enabling environment such services require.
Frederik Teufel, Advisor to the Vice-President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for Regional Development, Integration, and Business Delivery agreed with other panelists about the positive role the AfCFTA can play in the current economic recovery and the critical need for complementary measures in order to build ownership and sustained momentum during the operational phase of the AfCFTA.
The objective of the 2021 African Economic Conference, which was held from 2 to 4 December in Sal, Cabo Verde, was to discuss ways to sustainably grow the continent’s development funding sources. The conference was organized by the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Economic Commission for Africa. The conference provided a platform for established academics and young researchers to present their solution-oriented research to policymakers and decision-makers.