President Cyril Ramaphosa participates in the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) in Niamey, Republic of Niger. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Johannesburg – The United Nations (UN) is developing strategies to maximise opportunities created by the African Union’s (AU) free trade agreement as member states begin to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The free trade area was agreed to during the AU’s 12th Extraordinary Session over the weekend in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Pledging its full support for the agreement UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed confirmed to the AU that the UN was ready to work in a partnership with African countries on AfCFTA, which once implemented will make it the world’s biggest trade bloc since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1974.

Mohammed said in a statement released by the Economic Commission for Africa office at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa that the UN was already working with 16 African governments to develop opportunities created by the agreement and that the number would be increased by next year.

“We are committed to working with African institutions to mobilise the resources that will be required for full implementation of the AfCFTA. In the first instance, the African Regional Integration Trust Fund will support countries to mobilise resources to finance regional integration,” said Mohammed.

She explained that the UN will work with the AU to coordinate and leverage complementary funding sources from the African Development Bank’s Africa50 Fund, to the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“This will help to ensure that trade policy is both gender-sensitive and responds to demographic realities, thereby contributing more fully to sustainable development,” the UN deputy chief said.

“Trade can contribute to either widening or closing inclusion and gender gaps, depending on how the process is managed. So we are also working with governments to counterbalance the distributional and gender-differentiated effects of trade liberalisation.”

African News Agency (ANA)