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African leaders urge fast-tracking of regional integration at AfDB meetings

13 Jun 2019, 04:15 pm
Financial Nigeria
African leaders urge fast-tracking of regional integration at AfDB meetings

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A number of African leaders said the continent’s regional integration will accelerate economic transformation of African countries.

African Development Bank headquarters, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

African leaders, on Wednesday, expressed the need to fast-track the continent’s regional integration to accelerate economic transformation of African countries. The call was made during the 2019 Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank Group, taking place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Leaders from four African countries – namely President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, President Felix Tshsekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Prime Minister of eSwatini Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and his majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho – were joined by the AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, for the panel discussion, titled: "Boosting Africa’s Economic Integration."

During a high-level presidential dialogue on day two of the AfDB's 2019 Annual Meetings, the leaders said integration required greater security, connectivity, political will and fostering linguistic and cultural ties.

“We need to do away with barriers but, to promote integration to African countries, we need to get organised," the Congolese president said. "I don’t believe it can be done at a continental level all at once, we must begin at the regional level."

The meetings are holding after the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement in April. Gambia’s parliament had approved the AfCFTA, becoming the 22nd nation to do so, and effectively meeting the minimum threshold for the agreement to come into force per Article 23 of the AfCFTA Agreement. Nigeria, Eritrea and Benin are yet to sign the agreement.

The aim of the AfCFTA is to create the world’s largest free trade zone, increase intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022 and remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods. The AfDB's Annual Meetings are holding from 11-14 June with the theme: “Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity." More than 2,000 participants are attending the Annual Meetings, according to a statement by the AfDB on Wednesday.

“Apart and divided, Africa is weakened. Together and united, Africa will be unstoppable,” Adesina said. He also urged African governments to work towards the elimination of non-tariff barriers. “Pulling down non-tariff barriers alone, will spur trade by at least 53%, and potentially double trade.”

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