Africa does not need a Marshall Plan to ride out the ongoing coronavirus crisis. It has a more powerful tool in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to use in accelerating regional and economic integration and prepare for uncertain times.
This was said Tuesday by Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in a virtual panel discussion to mark the inaugural Africa Integration Day that was set aside by the African Union to mark the implementation of the AfCFTA.
She said integration is key for Africa’s growth and attainment of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and Africa’s development aspirations as found in Agenda 2063.
“We need to talk about Africa and the AfCFTA. Our Marshall Plan is the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is our plan so let us take it and run with it,” Songwe said.
The ECA head also said with the AfCFTA, Africa had collectively penned its own blueprint for growth.
“The Marshall Plan for Europe was about 160 percent of their [gross domestic product] GDP traded to bring back growth after the war. What happened to us is that we were all waiting for a health crisis but we got an economic crisis first which was very steep, very deep, not just for us but for the rest of the world,” she said.
ECA estimates that economic growth in Africa in 2020 will drop from 3.2 percent to -2.8 percent to about zero percent growth as a result of Covid-19, a situation she described as disastrous, throwing an extra 20 million people into poverty in a continent where almost 300 million people cannot afford one meal a day.
Songwe was joined on the panel by Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of Unctad; Benedict Okey Oramah, president of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank); Wamkele Mene and first Secretary General of the AfCFTA among others.
The panelists agreed that the AfCFTA was the best stimulus for Africa to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic. n