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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

United Nations official stresses free trade pact,
digital identity as Africa’s priority sectors

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, advocated the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), digital identity, and investment opportunities at the global stage as Africa’s priority sectors.

Songwe, who concluded series of engagements in New York, U.S. on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA), underscored those areas as an impetus for Africa’s future development, the ECA said on the outcome statement issued on Monday.

Songwe also addressed the African Leaders Roundtable on Identification for Development on the sidelines of the UNGA, which discussed the need to reach “the invisible billion and provide digital opportunities for all.”

According to her, 542 million Africans currently live without identities, of whom the majority are young people.

“Digital identity is about empowering individuals and protecting their rights. Countries that proactively create digital identities provide citizens with a secure and fast way to access e-services, thus accelerating access to financial inclusion, economic opportunities, mobile access and connectivity, government services and democratic processes,” the statement quoted Songwe as saying.

Songwe further indicated that there has been significant energy connectivity across the continent over the last 10 years.

“We have gone from 700 million people without access to energy to 520 million people,” she said.

Songwe further highlighted countries such as Kenya, Mauritania and Senegal as “exemplary in their efforts to improve their environments to support investment in energy.”

“Africa has the highest numbers of ports being built and that learning from other regions, there is no doubt that we are open for business,” she said.

Songwe, however, stressed that capital markets are needed to finance investments and that 22 countries have issued sovereign bonds in this regard.

Financing development initiatives will also require supporting pension funds for long-term investments on the continent, according to Songwe.

At a high-level side event on how inclusive and sustainable industrial development can support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, Songwe also stressed that “if the AfCFTA is to catalyze Africa’s industrialization through integrated markets then bridging infrastructure gaps and digitalizing economies across the continent is critical.”

According to her, 95 percent of all transactions in Africa are cash based. Leveraging the AfCFTA will require robust digital identification and payment systems.

             

 

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