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African ministers express commitment to regional integration

AFRICAN ministers say they are committed to regional integration as a major driving force for inclusive economic development in Africa, and have pledged to promote job creation and economic diversification.

The ministers made the commitment in a statement adopted at the conclusion of the 51st Session of the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Conference of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

National development planning minister Alexander Chiteme, other ministers and representatives of 44 countries, UN agencies, Regional Economic Communities, development partners, private sector, civil society organisations and other stakeholders participated in the meeting that focused on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), creation of fiscal space for jobs and economic diversification.

The ministers recognised that African countries had made progress on regional integration, including in trade, regional infrastructure, financial and productive integration.

“We are mindful that the current infrastructure bottlenecks in Africa remain a serious impediment to the continent’s integration,” the ministers stated according to a statement issued by the ministry’s spokesperson Chibaula Silwamba. “We recognise the importance of enhancing fiscal space and sustainability in our countries and maintaining investment in the social sector, in particular in health and in education.”

The ministers recognised the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area to advance African industralisation, economic diversification and development that sustain the creation of decent jobs, consistent with Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We note that private finance presents a large potential source of capital to fund public projects. We are cognisant of the needs to develop and deepen domestic capital markets and leverage private capital for development projects, while ensuring that such projects provide fair risk-sharing and accountability within a coherent overall development strategy,” the ministers stated.

The ministers acknowledged the continued efforts and cooperation between the Economic Commission for Africa, and African Union member states including other UN agencies and other development partners.

The ministers recognised the importance of increasing the efficiency of tax administration by modernising tax systems, to improve economic and corporate governance in the extractive sector.

“We also call upon the Economic Commission for Africa to support Member States in enhancing their fiscal space and mobilising additional domestic resources through strengthening tax administration, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending, developing and strengthening capital markets and developmental private financing, and improving the sustainability of borrowing,” the ministers stated. “We underscore the need to take steps to tackle harmful competition among African countries.”

The ministers noted that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Africa grew at a rate of 3.1 per cent in 2017 from 1.6 per cent in 2016, registering the second-fastest growth rate of any region in the world, after East and South Asia.

Ministry of National Development Planning permanent secretary (Monitoring and Evaluation) Mushuma Mulenga and Bank of Zambia deputy governor Dr Bwalya Ng’andu participated in the continental meeting.

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