Strides towards regional industrialisation, growing the manufacturing sector and value-chains top the agenda at the 27th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) which Malawi is hosting from tomorrow.
The two-day indaba, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), attracts ministers of finance, planning and economic development and other experts from the continent.
It comes as Uneca estimates show that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) will boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated.
The AfCTA will also diversify intra-Africa trade as it would encourage more industrial goods than extractive goods and natural resources.
Finance Minister Felix Mlusu is expected to deliver a key note address at the meeting.
A statement jointly issued by the Treasury and Uneca says the conference would be held under the theme ‘Building Back better from Covid in Southern Africa: Fostering Commodity-based Industrialisation, Manufacturing and Regional Value-chains.’
“Specifically, the 27th session will focus on the reasons behind the persistent reliance on primary commodity exports and lack of manufacturing development in the sub-region,” the statement reads.
Delegates are also expected to confront the lack of progress in addressing critical constraints to inclusive industrialisation and regional value chains, the implications of Covid on inclusive industrialisation, manufacturing and regional value chain development in Southern Africa.
They will also deliberate on best models for harnessing emerging opportunities for industrial and private sector development in Southern Africa, the implications of the AfCFTA on regional and national industrialisation strategies and cross-border cooperation in industrial and manufacturing development.
In an interview yesterday, Uneca Economic Affairs Officer Fanwell Bokosi rated the theme as ideal as countries within the region are working towards accelerating economic growth and facilitating the rebuilding of economies following the Covid crisis.
“More work has to be done to prepare and encourage SMEs as surveys show that only 45 percent of African SMEs are ready to take advantage of the AfCTA,” Bokosi said.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda said the meeting has come at the right time as it will also help promote the Buy Malawi Strategy.
“We are going to learn from others but also leverage on some of the initiatives we are running while enhancing value addition to our agriculture products,” Banda said.
ICSOE is a United Nations General Assembly policy sub-organ of the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
The committee was established to provide a forum for engaging senior officials and experts of member States on policy and programme-related matters in each of the five sub-regions of Africa – Central, Eastern, North, Southern and West.