ADDIS ABABA– Antonio Pedro, the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), has emphasized the need to deepen intra-Africa trade to withstand external shocks.

“An Africa that increasingly trades with itself in a diverse range of products is a credible option to build a resilient Africa that can withstand external shocks,” Pedro said this week.

The UNECA chief made the remarks during the meeting of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) that was held as part of the high-level industrialization-themed continental gathering, the AU Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification and AU Extraordinary Session on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), slated for Nov. 20-25 in the Nigerien capital of Niamey.

Pedro said the African continent has suffered more than other regions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, in large part due to its excessive dependency on imports. 

“On both occasions, though, we have managed to find innovative solutions to reducing the negative impacts of the crises,” Pedro said, underscoring the need to strengthen intra-Africa trade. 

He further emphasized that Africa’s sustainable economic transformation requires accelerated and sustainable industrialization. 

“It is high time that we learn the lessons fast, seize the opportunities inherent in these crises by diversifying our economic base, enhancing our research and development capacity, and investing in industrialization,” Pedro said.

Pedro argued that the continental free trade pact is a critical tool to support Africa’s transition toward stronger intra-Africa trade and industrialization. 

He said the AfCFTA provides the continent with a blueprint for faster and more effective industrialization by putting in place the necessary conditions for transformational investment, diversification, and sustainable development in Africa. 

“Industrialization is not an option for our continent; it is indeed an imperative.

Simply put, by adding value to Africa’s natural and mineral resources here on the continent, we can turn the persistent bane of our resources into a persistent boon,” Pedro said. – Xinhua