| All is set for the two-day regional trade forum for the Horn of Africa focusing on the implementation of the historic African Continental Free Trade Agreement that went into force on 30 May.|
The theme of the forum is: “AfCFTA Implementation: Breaking Down Geographical, Logistical and Regulatory Barriers to Trade and Investment in the Horn to Boost Industrialisation: A Focus on the Pharmaceutical Industry”.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting. Stephen Karingi, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Regional Integration and Trade Division, said much work now needs to be done now that the AfCFTA is in force.
He said sessions, which will focus on a number of sub-themes, including boosting competitiveness and job creation in the Horn of Africa with pharmaceuticals as an example; stocktaking – completing the investment, competition and intellectual property protocols of the Phase II agenda; broadening policy space and taking advantage of flexibilities, will encourage participants to expand their thinking and explore fresh opportunities under the new continental market.
“Thanks to the AfCFTA, Africa is now in a position to say market size is no longer an issue for pharmaceutical manufacturers to engage in, for example, the local production of generic medicines on the continent,” the ECA Director noted.
The forum will provide a platform where the pharmaceutical industry value chain will be used as a demonstration of the extent to which the emerging, AfCFTA-anchored, African single market changes the economics on the ground and makes the case for significant investment in manufacturing across the continent.
The regional trade forum will also provide an opportunity for stakeholders, from policy makers to commercial actors, from academics to civil society organisations, to explore the extent to which the AfCFTA can contribute to efforts to address Africa’s unique trade and competitiveness challenges.
Part of the forum will include high level panels discussing topics such as ‘Making the AfCFTA a Truly Pan-African Reality and Boosting Competitiveness and Industrialisation in the Horn of Africa’ and ‘Breaking Down Geographical and Logistical Barriers to Trade and Investment in the Horn’.
High-level participants are expected to come up with recommendations at the end of the two days on, among other issues, how to use the AfCFTA as a policy tool to create positive change and impact in African economies as well as a tool for advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, as a catalyst for inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development on the continent.
Once all 55 countries have joined, the African Continental Free Trade Area will cover at least 1.2 billion people and over $3 trillion in GDP.
In addition to creating a massive market, the AfCFTA also eliminates 90 percent of tariffs which proponents say will encourage foreign direct investment by creating and easing entry into a larger, single, seamless market for goods and services.
The forum is being organized by the ECA, the Government of Ethiopia, the African Union Commission (AUC), and the European Union (EU) in collaboration with their partners IGAD Secretariat, Afreximbank, TradeMark East Africa, and the Ethiopian Airlines Group.