Expanding on Jide Okeke’s Opening Remarks at the AfCFTA Conference

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Beyond Optimism: Navigating the Road to AfCFTA Success

Jide Okeke’s opening remarks at the AfCFTA Implementation Strategies Conference painted a nuanced picture of the continent’s free trade journey. While acknowledging the potential for economic transformation, Okeke ventured beyond mere optimism, highlighting the critical challenges and strategic considerations that lie ahead.

People First: AfCFTA as a Catalyst for Inclusive Prosperity

At the heart of Okeke’s message lies the principle of a “people-centered” AfCFTA. This translates to ensuring policies and institutions cater not only to macro-economic indicators, but also to the lived realities of African entrepreneurs, farmers, workers, and communities. His reference to UNDP’s report on “Making the AfCFTA Work for Women and Youth” underscores the need to prioritize those often marginalized in traditional trade agreements. By empowering these groups, the AfCFTA can truly become a driver of inclusive prosperity across the continent.

Adapting to the Winds of Change: AfCFTA in a Dynamic Africa

Okeke’s call for adaptability is crucial. The AfCFTA’s implementation unfolds against a backdrop of economic shocks like the pandemic, rising debt, and inflation. Political transitions and social movements further complicate the landscape. In this dynamic context, Okeke emphasizes the need to integrate the AfCFTA with broader national development goals, ensuring trade policies resonate with the realities of individual African countries. UNDP’s country-level presence becomes vital here, allowing for flexible and context-specific support tailored to each nation’s unique circumstances.

Embracing the Digital Frontier: AfCFTA and the Future of African Trade

The burgeoning African digital economy presents both challenges and opportunities. The forthcoming Protocol on Digital Trade, as highlighted by Okeke, offers a framework for harnessing the potential of this sector within the AfCFTA. By facilitating cross-border data flow, e-commerce, and digital services, the protocol can propel Africa towards a more competitive position in the global digital landscape. Recognizing the success stories of African digital creators and businesses further underscores the need for agile and forward-looking trade policies that embrace the digital revolution.

A Call to Collective Action: Partnering for AfCFTA Success

Okeke’s concluding remarks serve as a call to collective action. He reiterates UNDP’s unwavering commitment to supporting the AfCFTA’s implementation, offering the organization’s regional portfolio and network of country offices as resources for member states. This collaborative spirit, encompassing African governments, the AfCFTA Secretariat, and other stakeholders, is essential for navigating the road ahead and ensuring the AfCFTA’s success translates into tangible benefits for all Africans.

In essence, Okeke’s message transcends mere optimism. It acknowledges the complexities of the AfCFTA journey while outlining a roadmap for success that prioritizes inclusivity, adaptability, and a forward-looking embrace of the digital future. By working together, African nations and their partners can harness the immense potential of the AfCFTA and unlock a new era of economic prosperity for the continent

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