African countries must mobilise funds and other resources to put the continent on the path of industrialisation, speakers at the 53rd Commission and 2021 Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, have said.
The conference themed: ‘Africa’s Sustainable Industrialisation and Diversification in the Digital Era in the Context of COVID-19,’ monitored from Lagos by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) runs from March 17 to 23 in Ethiopia.
NAN reports that this year’s theme embraces the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth through environmentally conscious industrialisation and diversification while taking advantage of digitalisation.
Mr Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Economic Commission for Africa, noted that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement could stimulate Africa’s overdue industrialisation.
He said, in addition, African countries would have to improve on infrastructure and more intra-Africa finance to achieve sustainable industrialisation.
According to him, scaling-up digitalisation in Africa can be transformational, helping the continent to industrialise and diversify within a global digital economy estimated to soon surpass 11.5 trillion dollars.
Karingi was speaking on a sub-topic, ‘Assessing the status of Regional Integration in Africa.’
He said Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA) was one of the tools for monitoring the Regional Integration in Africa, and that ECA, in conjunction with Africa Union, Africa Development Bank and UNCTAD, had continued to produce ARIA.
In the views of Karingi, regional integration remains a priority for African countries as demonstrated through various initiatives, including AfCFTA.
NAN reports that 54 African countries have signed the AfCFTA agreement and 37 have ratified it.
NAN also reports that specific topic of the AfCFTA will feature at ministerial, experts and side event sessions as one of the particular tools available to African countries as they chart their recovery from COVID-19.
The opening session was graced by Mr Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance, Ghana, who will frame the discourse of the conference on Africa’s recovery imperative.
Ms Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Nigeria, led a debate on the preparedness of the multilateral systems to support African countries in dealing with COVID-19 challenges.
Mr Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance of Ethiopia, shared Ethiopia’s COVID-19 recovery efforts and the policies that have been put in place to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Mr Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organisation and Mr Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, were also present to join discussions on Africa’s readiness to finance its own vaccines.
The speakers pointed out that COVID-19 had exposed Africa’s overreliance on international supply chains for medical research, equipment and pharmaceuticals.
They said one of the challenges confronting Africa was how the continent could generate its own pharmaceutical sectors, and the role of the AfCFTA.