African free trade can create 2 million jobs, doubles growth

BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Asmara, Eritrea – The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement signed by African leaders on March 21, 2018, can create two million jobs every year and doubles growth of the continent, a UN official said today.

The east Africa region, the fastest growing sub region on African continent, needs to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to create jobs for 8.5 million youth in the sub region entering the job markets every year.

“The struggles that we see today in terms of achieving growth and creating jobs for our youth could be something of the past if we actually work together to exploits the benefits of the free trade area agreement,” said Vera Songwe, UNECA Executive Director of UNECA.

She made the statement this morning in Asmara, Eritrea addressing the 23rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE).

“We know because of the analysis that we do at the UNECA that the African Continental Free Trade agreement stands to deliver about $1.8 billion worth of additional revenue to the continent ad can create about 2 million jobs a year,” she said.

The experts are gathered from the 14 countries found in the east Africa sub region namely, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Madagascar, Tanzania, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Rwanda, Seychelles and Somalia.

The fastest growing
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) predicts that East Africa sub region will grow at 6.5% by 2020. “This is the fastest sub-region on the continent [Africa]. Today this east Africa region is growing at 6.4%. We expect it to grow at 6.5% by 2020. The overall continent is growing at only 3.4%,” she said, in her opening remark of the meeting on Tuesday morning.

She stated that east Africa region, which has a total of 14 countries, must create 8.5 million jobs every year in order to absorb the youth getting into the job market.

“That is a huge challenge. That is why we are here today. With a combined GDP of $880 billion dollars and a population of 420 million, this region is a region that can grow Africa…but it is a region that cannot do that if our leaders do not make the right policy decisions,” Vera said, stressing on the need to speed the implementation of the AfCFTA signed by Africa leaders on 21st March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

She noted that by signing the AfCFTA, Africa leaders have come together to give the east African sub region and the continent a blueprint for that growth.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement is not just another trade agreement. It is essentially the investment program for Africa. It is the investment program for job creation. It is an investment program for regional integration for how we as a continent collectively can realize the dream of a prosperous Africa,” she said.