Nigeria Loses out as EU Offers AfCFTA Signatories €40bn Grants

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EU Ambassador to the African Union, Amb. Ranieri Sabatucci
  •   Africa’s pharmaceutical industry to create 16m jobs, says ECA

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The European Union Commission (EUC) at the weekend proposed a €40 billion package designed to create at least 10 million jobs in African countries signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

By implication, Nigeria might not benefit from the EU offer due to President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the agreement aimed at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market.

This was revealed in a statement from the Communication Office of the Economic Commission on Africa (ECA) issued on Friday after a two-day forum the ECA organised on the AfCFTA with focus on the pharmaceutical industry.

The statement quoted the EU Ambassador to the African Union, Amb. Ranieri Sabatucci at the two-day forum where he proposed a €40 billion package to attract investments that will create at least 10 million jobs in African countries

Sabatucci said, “As was highlighted in his state of the union speech in September 2018 referring to the AfCFTA, the EU Commission President, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker expressed the will that the long term perspective is to create a comprehensive continent to continent free trade agreement between EU and Africa.”

He said, “To prepare for this, economic partnership agreements, free trade agreements, including the deep and comprehensive free trade areas and others in the countries, north of Africa and other trade issues with the EU should be exploited to the greatest extent as building blocks to the benefit of the AfCFTA.

“The ambition is to further increase African exports and to attract investment, including to manufacturing and processing sectors and to encourage the creation of regional value chains through flexible rules of origin.

“To support this, a massive support of €40 billion of grants under the new Africa-European Alliance for Jobs and Growth is proposed as from 2021 to 2027 to, among others, attract investments that would create 10 million jobs in Africa,” he said.

He added that the EU would continue to increase its support to Africa in that regard, saying the AfCFTA “has an extra-ordinary potential to be economically transformative for Africa by creating the world’s largest integrated common market since the establishment of the WTO.

“Our support for the AfCFTA has a lot to do with our history. It was through the establishment of the free trade area and customs union and the single market that the last 60 years have become the longest period of peace, economic growth and prosperity in our continent,” he said.

The envoy noted that real work “begins now since the AFCTA came into force on 30 May,” noting that stable Horn of Africa was important for regional and Africa’s economic integration.

Also quoted in the statement, the Executive Secretary of ECA, Mrs. Vera Songwe spoke on the significance of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, which according to her, was a good summary of what the AfCFTA can deliver for the continent.

Worth $20.8 billion in 2013, the executive secretary said the industry “is predicted to be $64 billion in the next ten years, creating over 16 million jobs in the process. This would also lead to the creation of regional and continental giants and prosperity.

“The AfCFTA is an economic development program anchored around creating regional and continental champions, accelerating infrastructure development, energy and harmonising Africa’s integration platforms. We must now move with speed to implement the AfCFTA and reap the benefits of the agreement.”

Songwe said East Africa with at least 600 million people was one of the fastest growing regions on the continent but that growth has not yet translated into poverty reduction and prosperity.

Songwe said it was vitally important for African countries, especially those in the Horn of Africa “to maintain peace and stability as a prerequisite for strengthening private-sector development and boosting intra-African trade. We believe that trade and integration will be one of the solutions to the challenges in the region.”