The African Union (AU) on Tuesday said the advent of COVID-19 posed the most formidable risk to the smooth operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
AU a statement ahead of an industrialization-themed continental meeting said “COVID-19 pandemic has further heightened the risks of perpetuating the continent’s trade and business vulnerability.’’
It stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant disruption of global supply chains have brought to the fore the urgency and significance of driving industrialization in the African continent.
“More fundamentally, the pandemic has openly exposed the hollowness of African economies on several fronts, including the fragility and weakness of Africa’s industrial capabilities,” the AU said.
The AU, however, emphasized that while COVID-19 was creating a significant economic and health crisis, it also presents an invaluable opportunity for the continent to re-configure its development narrative toward prioritization of initiatives that help accelerate Africa’s industrialization.
It added that the development of strong regional and local value-chains can be a game-changer to build a resilient small and medium enterprises’ production capacity in the continent, to seize the business opportunities emanating from COVID-19-induced disruptions of global value chains.
The statement came ahead of the AU’s high-level industrialization-themed continental summit, slated for Nov. 20 to 25 in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
The summit will be held under the theme “Industrializing Africa: Renewed commitment towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Economic Diversification.
According to the AU, industrialization prospects for the continent are anchored on unleashing the growth of small and micro-enterprises (SMEs) guided by the African Union SMEs Strategy.
According to the AU, trading under the AfCFTA agreement was launched in January 2021. Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA will create a single African market for goods and services.
The AU said it would be covering about 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of more than 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars across 55 members.
The upcoming summit will be convened as part of the Africa Industrialization Week annual commemorative activities.
Given the importance of industrialization and economic transformation in Africa, the 20th of every November is commemorated as Africa Industrialization Day.
This was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the AU, in July 1989, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.