AfCFTA on the move in West Africa

After a decade of GDP growth average of about 5%, economic activity stagnated at 0.5% in 2016 in West Africa, mainly due to falling oil prices, before picking up again to 2.5% in 2017, and 3.4% and 3.7% respectively in 2018 and 2019.

However, West Africa also faces major challenges, with rapid population growth, high levels of poverty and hunger, and armed conflict. All of these factors make it particularly difficult the implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the corresponding objectives of the African Union's Agenda 2063.

Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic and, most recently, the Ukrainian crisis. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a major economic shock in the region. According to the ECA, West Africa's real GDP has fallen to 0.7% in 2020 from 3.7% in 2019.

And while there is a favorable outlook for growth in West Africa, with respective levels of 2.8% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022, according to the African Development Bank, a resilient and more sustainable economic recovery is proving imperative for the sub-region.

In this context, a potential catalyst for future growth for sustainable diversification through industrialization by harnessing value chain development in West Africa, and for the continent, is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

With 12 of the 15 ECOWAS states having ratified the agreement to date, and 11 having developed national AfCFTA strategies, West Africa is on the right track for the implementation of this instrument for regional and African integration and sustainable development.

Indeed, West Africa is demonstrating resilience and is trying to exploit the potential opportunities offered by the AfCFTA to rebuild better and succeed in the post-Covid 19 economic speed recovery and in the face of the effects of the crisis in Ukraine, through the important role played by States, the private sector, young people and women.

With a view to taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA and boosting local production, the ECA's Sub-Regional Office for West Africa has taken initiatives in favor of "Made in West Africa", resulting in commitments with ECOWAS member states, Regional Economic Commissions, Inter-Governmental Organizations, and the private sector.

As recently as September 2021, the ECA's Sub-Regional Office for Africa engaged with over 350 young people and women at a Forum held in Lagos, Nigeria, which led to the launch of the West Africa Business Linkages Platform (WABLP).

It is a cloud portal which facilitates automatic business linkages, resources sharing, marketing referral and resources carpooling, under one roof.  WABLP is a cloud platform, accessible to all members across the region, through shared infrastructure and relational databases. to ensure multilingual data sharing.

It aims to establish a business linkages Programme which facilitates the creation of new linkages, deepens, and expands existing programs between foreign companies' affiliates and small- and medium-sized enterprises in from across and beyond West Africa, thereby making them more effective and sustainable.

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