It is a pleasure to greet this forum.
The African Continental Free Trade Area presents enormous opportunities to get back on track towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at a critical moment for the region.
From improving food security and conditions for traders, to creating jobs and opportunities, especially for women, the Free Trade Area opens enormous possibilities for a more resilient and prosperous African region.
Intra-African exports make up only about 15 per cent of the continent’s trade.
The African Free Trade Area can help by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers, which increase trade costs significantly.
The non-tariff barrier mechanism, to which the United Nations contributed, is a key feature established to enhance transparency and the identification of non-tariff barriers.
African countries have persevered to ensure trading commences as planned on 1 January.
Negotiators and leaders have overcome the considerable organizational disruptions imposed by Covid-19 to achieve this, culminating in an extraordinary meeting of the African Union Heads of State and Government taking place tomorrow.
Beyond the negotiations, more African leaders have continued to ratify the Agreement, with Cameroon, Lesotho, Tunisia and Angola having done so in November alone, bringing the number of State Parties to 33, with more expected imminently.
The AfCFTA has transformational potential for Africa: it is expected to boost intra-African trade in industrial goods by 25-30 per cent, equivalent to $36 billion to $43 billion, helping to stimulate Africa’s long-overdue industrialization and catalyze its sustainable recovery from Covid-19.
The United Nations family will continue working closely with the African Union Commission and member States to support the private sector as we strive to reap the full potential of this pioneering initiative.
Together, we must use this opportunity to realize the ambition of “creating one African market”.
I wish you every success. Thank you.