The Commonwealth has reiterated its commitment to work with African countries to deepen export capacity and, particularly, take advantage of trading opportunities like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, stated this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
She explained that the Commonwealth Secretariat had been working with the 19 African member states to strengthen their institutional capacity and develop trade policies over the years.
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This, according to her, will enable the countries engage in trade negotiations, agreements and deepen their national capabilities at export, and exploit the huge opportunities provided by AfCFTA.
“We are really going to intensify these supports, considering that the inter-Commonwealth trade had grown to 700 billion dollars in 2019, a target we achieved a year earlier.
“We are going to continue with the cooperation to support the full implementation of a single market of goods and services in Africa. This will economically position the continent to overcome the impact of COVID-19.”
She said the Commonwealth has been a part of the development of AfCFTA from inception.
She further added that the secretariat would continue to work with African countries to implement the agreement scheduled to start in January 2021.
Scotland said that training and capacity building was ongoing to support the second phase of the negotiations which would cover investment, competition, and e-commerce.
She disclosed that the Commonwealth had placed three long-term advisors at the African Union to support the development of the continental trade agenda and the negotiation of the trade agreement itself.
“Our advisors have helped to finalise the African Union’s Commodity Strategy, Green Economy Strategy and African Union Digital Trade and Digital Economy Strategy.
“These developments are essential if Africa is to take advantage of the opportunities of the intra-African trade as well as the Commonwealth trade.”
She pointed out that 60 per cent of the 2.5 billion people in Africa are young people under the age of 30.
She, however, added that all Commonwealth countries were facing challenges of unemployment among young people.
The commonwealth scribe stressed the need to re-skill young people to exploit opportunities in the digitalised economy and take advantage of the blue and green economy.
“What the Commonwealth secretariat will do is to support greater intra-African trade and investment and ensure no community, business, or individual is left behind.
“We are looking at how we can help our member states to draft legislation and regulatory conventions to enable them to implement these opportunities.
“We all have challenges, but the good thing is that the 54 countries are working together and the 19 countries in Africa who are members of the Commonwealth are solidly together.”
On the challenge of possible dumping, she said that the commonwealth would support the development of robust measures that would be fair and transparent to facilitate trade and not impede it.
She also disclosed that the secretariat has put together a team of experts to assist member countries to review their strategy in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of the people.
“To this effect, we will be holding an Africa webinar simulation performance management in January, and in February, we will be bringing together new manuscripts from small businesses particularly across the Commonwealth.
“This will help address issues relating to ongoing efforts to combat the various impacts of COVID-19 on the poorest of industries and how to start again.
“The secretariat has put together a team of pro bono experts to assist member countries to review their work modulations to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on livelihoods of the people.
“A project has been named the COVID-19 Business Law Research Initiative and the experts will carry out in-depth research and produce a framework; the draft legislative provisions which can be utilised by member countries,” she said.