African Conference of Ministers Calls for Increased Investments in Digitization in Order to Enhance Continent’s Economies

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The Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (COM2019), an annual high-profile event, has called on its delegates to review fiscal policies for the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

The CFTA is an initiative that seeks to expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization

COM2019, an ongoing week-long event, kicked off in Marrakesh on Wednesday, 20 March 2019, with an emphasis on the importance of digitalization in enhancing African economies. The affair comes even as the continent celebrates the first anniversary of the highly hailed and historic signing of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

With the value of the global digital economy estimated at over $11.5 trillion and set to rise to over $23 trillion by 2025, according to Vera Songwe, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, the effects of digital trade and economy in Africa are points of key debate.

“The potential of Africa is, and has always been, promising… the continent has all the pre-requisites for rapid economic transformation in the next decade…[but]the importance of digitalization and the digital economy in driving growth and structural transformation, as well as optimizing fiscal performance in Africa cannot be overstated,” she said.

“It is currently estimated to represent 15.5% of global GDP and is expected to reach 25 percent of global GDP in less than a decade and there has been a rise in the digital innovation hubs on the continent, such as the Silicon Savannah in Nairobi and the Kumasi Hive in Ghana, not to mention more solution-oriented technologies such as Flutterwave, which has enabled global payment processing in Nigeria through a single, seamless platform. In 2018, this application was reported to have processed $1 billion worth of transactions,” Songwe added.

She stated that such digital developments can have a transformative effect across the economy by reducing barriers to entry and expanding market reach for businesses, creating jobs, and boosting both domestic and foreign trade in goods and services.

Zouhair Chorfi, Secretary General at Morocco’s Ministry of Finance Morocco and incoming chair of the Committee of Experts of the CoM, added that digitalization is a great opportunity for Africa.

“It can transform Africa by increasing competitiveness, promoting strong integration, reducing the cost of doing business. Morocco is ready to play its part,” he explained.

The conference will provide a platform for delegates to review fiscal policies for the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Adopted on 21st March 2018, the agreement is now 2 ratifications away from 22 member countries needed to enforce the trade bloc that envisages, including a gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion and the creation of 300,000 direct and more than 2 million indirect jobs. Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria and the host country Morocco are among those yet to ratify.

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