The African Continental Free Trade Area is a game changer for investment on the continent which in recent years has seen foreign direct investment continuing to weaken, Economic Commission of Africa’s Regional Integration and Trade Division Director, Stephen Karingi, said, according to United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Director said this while presenting for discussion reports by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on investment issues during the annual investment meeting Africa regional focused session advancing ideas for action on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“African economies continue to punch below their weight in terms of attracting foreign direct investment. Moreover, Foreign Direct Investment to the continent continues to weaken. While Foreign Direct Investment inflows reached 56.6 billion USD in 2015, they had fallen to less than 42 billion USD by 2017. This figure represents less than three percent of the global investment flows,” he said.
Investment flows to all African regions fell in 2017 to different degrees. This has largely been attributed to the end of the commodity super-cycle. Many African economies remain dependent on exports of primary commodities which are particularly prone to shocks.
“Foreign direct investment is a catalyst of economic growth, structural transformation and regional integration on the continent. African economies need Foreign Direct Investment as a means to build productive assets, a vector of positive spill over-effects and an additional and relatively stable source of development finance,” said the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa Director.
Karingi said African countries can surmount a number of policy and regulatory challenges through the Afrca Continental Free Trade Agreement to attract greater investment by linking individual chapters of the agreement and achieving coherence on the various policy areas they cover; harmonizing heterogeneous approaches to investment regulation in Africa; clarify the relationship and precedence of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement Investment Protocol and IIAs; pool resources to strengthen domestic and regional institutions and the business climate.
His presentation summarized the main elements and key findings of two United Nations Economic Commission for Africa publications on investment and regional integration in Africa which came out earlier this year. These are the “Drivers for boosting intra-African investment flows towards Africa’s transformation” and “Linkages between double taxation treaties and bilateral investment treaties.”
Karingi said African regional integration has gained momentum with the current efforts to establish the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. “Intra-African investments in particular can be conducive to structural transformation and regional integration in that they can underpin African trade and its industrial contents, enable economies of scale and can facilitate entry into regional and global value chains,” he said.
Karingi added that the knowledge generated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa enables member States to become informed and position themselves to review, negotiate, renegotiate or terminate investment agreements with careful consideration of the legal, policy, economic and social implications of such agreements to ensure that a balance is struck between protecting investment and preserving policy space for development objectives; and contemplate opportunities for expanding intra-African investment in the context of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The Africa Regional Focus Session engaged with the Guinean Minister of Investments and Public-Private Partnerships, Gabriel Curtis, and Yofi Grant, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre on critical issues to shape investment strategies through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Curtis said he sees digitalization as a major opportunity of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement with the advancement of an e-commerce protocol to support digital and mobile trade. “E-barriers are even more cumbersome than barriers to physical trade because they are technology driven and can be addressed through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement e-commerce protocol,” he said.
Grant said reforming business practices and regulations are key actions to support the private sector in realizing the benefits of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The Africa Regional Focus Session, which was hosted by the ECA, was held under the theme of “Regional Investment Agreements and Investment Drivers in Africa: Shaping Global Investment Strategies through the African Continental Free Trade Area.”