TO attract the much-needed investments into Africa and boost trade on the continent, “we need to improve infrastructure to connect people and markets,” Secretary-General of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Mr Wamkele Mene, has said.
According to Mr Mene, “Africa needs much more investments, not only foreign direct investment, but also domestic investment and government investment in trade-related infrastructure.
The Secretary-General, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2023 edition of the Intra-African Trade Fair(IATF) in Cairo, Egypt, rallied African governments and players in the private sector to see the need to connect to the latest technologies in providing the requisite infrastructure to spur investment and trade across the continent.
The biennial Intra-Africa Trade Fair, branded the AfCFTA marketplace, over the last two editions had helped build bridges and strengthen economic and commercial engagement in the continent.
It had offered an ideal platform for the participants to enhance their visibility locally, continentally and internationally presenting vast opportunities for Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
Mr Mene called on the business community in Africa to see the crucial needs as opportunities and be among the first to capitalize on them with the current emphasis on ‘Made in Africa,’
With the adoption of the AfCFTA Investment Protocol, the investment landscape in Africa had entered a new stage, he noted, adding that the protocol aimed to promote, facilitate, and protect investments that support the sustainable development of state parties, while still preserving their right to regulate.
“It seeks to create a cohesive framework that streamlines the diverse and often disparate rules governing investments in different African countries. Such alignment is pivotal in making Africa’s business environment a friendlier one for investments, thereby catalyzing economic growth and development across the continent.” The AfCFTA boss explained.
The Protocol provides for the establishment of the Pan-Africa Trade and Investment Agency (PATIA), to support the promotion and facilitation of investments on the continent through collaboration with existing national Investment Promotion Agencies, regional Investment Associations, among other things.
The PATIA, he explained was designed to assist state parties, their investment promotion agencies, and the private sector by mobilizing financial resources, nurturing business development, and providing technical and other forms of support for the promotion and facilitation of investment.
He was confident that the implementation of the protocol on investment, along with the protocols on competition policy, intellectual property rights and digital trade will encourage innovation and investments within Africa as traders and investors gain confidence and predictability in the treatment of their goods, services, and property rights.
“These are important for investor attraction and protection,” he added.
Mr Mene announced that negotiations were well advanced on the protocol on Women and Youth in Trade, intended to create a supportive environment that will allow African women and youth to capitalize on trade opportunities within the AfCFTA market.
“With this protocol, we are, indeed, embarking on a journey that will enhance the ability and capacity of our women and youth to grow and thrive. It will usher in the creation of millions of jobs. This will help in building a new Africa, driven by the power of women and youth,” he stated.
The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of digital inclusion in Africa’s efforts to strengthen trade linkages and drive sustainable development in the continent.
“Digital financial inclusion is at the very core of African trade, as payments are central to trade. To ensure safe, reliable, interoperable and seamless cross-border transactions that are inclusive, and useful to small cross-border women traders and other disadvantaged groups who drive informal cross-border trade, the AfCFTA Secretariat and Better Than Cash Alliance conducted a series of border-visits to various regions of the continent to better comprehend the situation on ground,” he noted.