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Increased intra-African trade, key to increase employment in North Africa

The ECA Office for North Africa launched today, in partnership with the Ministry of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform of Egypt the 34th edition of the Intergovernmental Committee of High Officials and Experts (ICSOE) for North Africa.

Country representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, academics and representatives of the private sector and civil society are taking part in this event, organized under the theme; “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Employment: The Impact of an Improved Trade Facilitation and Regional Integration in North Africa”.

Although the North Africa region is endowed with most of the structural components of a dynamic, integrated market (e.g. proximity, infrastructures, linguistic and cultural affinity, etc.) its insufficient integration is depriving its economies from opportunities to grow and widen the scope for job creation. In this context, Trade facilitation and its impact on employment is a crucial issue.

As North Africa struggles with high unemployment rates, is it possible to look at how countries can do more trade with each other? When 64% of imports come from the European Union, North African countries are essentially exporting their labour, said ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe in a video message to participants, adding that, the more African countries trade with each other, the more North African youths should be able to work.

“Africa is gifted with an abundance of natural and energy resources, outstanding geographical locations, as well as many ports that facilitate access to and within our African countries. Our region is also endowed with a wealth of human resources with a massive, 1.3 billion population, which constitutes a large market for African products and an abundance of labour which, if properly used, can enhance regional competitiveness, said the Egyptian Deputy Minister for Planning Affairs Ahmad Kamaly in a speech read on behalf of the Minister of Planning Monitoring and Administrative Reform Hala Elsaid.

“As African countries, we therefore need to work together – governments, private sectors and civil society – to maximize the use of our available resources and claim the benefits of the AfCFTA. To this end, there is a need for higher investment in infrastructure projects that can support intra African trade and investment so as to create decent and productive jobs for our nations, and to achieve inclusive and sustainable development”, he added.

 “This session and the Expert Group Meeting are indeed an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a successful start of the AfCFTA [in North Africa]. This is an opportunity to collaborate more closely and reflect together on appropriate measures and operational recommendations to facilitate the promotion of intra-African trade and investment in the North African region and to contribute to the roadmap for the implementation of the AfCFTA”, said Kalthoum Hamzaoui, outgoing Chair of the ICSOE Bureau.

From 25 to 28 November, the ICSOE meeting will provide member country representatives with an opportunity to take stock of the work carried out by the ECA Office for North Africa, its programme of work as well as its strategic orientations for the coming year.

Participants will analyze regional integration implementation in North Africa and identify how enhanced regional integration in North Africa can help rejuvenate the economic landscape and increase job creation through more sustainable and balanced growth. In addition, participants will review the current socio-economic context and present recommendations on strategies to help accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063 in North Africa.

Parallel to the ICSOE meeting, the ECA office for North Africa will hold an expert group meeting on” Trade Facilitation in North Africa for Enhanced Regional Economic Integration: Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward”.

Note to editors

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a branch of the ECOSOC, has supported and promoted the economic and social development of African States, regional integration and international cooperation for African development since 1958.

Based in Rabat (Morocco), its Office for North Africa implements ECA programmes in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia), with a focus on how economic and social transformation can be achieved through better governance and regional integration. ECA’s Office for North Africa has two main areas of expertise: “Employment and Skills for Sustainable Development” and “Sub-regional Initiatives”.

For more information about this event and interview requests, please send an email to filali-ansary@un.org. Pictures of events on 25-28 November will be put at the media’s disposal on the ECA Flickr account (https://www.flickr.com/photos/uneca/) and the ECA Office for North Africa Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/cea.an.coms).    

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