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African Think Tanks Summit kicks off

By Ibrahim Obansa
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The 7th Africa Think Tank Summit organized by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has kicked off amid calls for increased funding of African Think Tanks for the continent to draw value from their expertise.

ACBF is the African Union’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development.

According to ACBF’s Senior Communication Officer, Ntsiuoa Sekete, the two-day virtual summit being conducted from 18 to 19 November 2020 is running under the theme: “Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement: Assessing Country Readiness and the Implications for Capacity Building.”

Officially opening the summit, ACBF Executive Secretary, Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie said the AfCFTA represented a major opportunity to help African countries diversify their exports, accelerate growth, increase intra-African trade, attract foreign direct investment, create jobs through value addition and to build back better.

Trading under the AfCFTA is now scheduled for 1 January 2021 having been postponed from 1 July 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is therefore a need to find solutions to put the AfCFTA back on track, to accelerate its implementation and to deliver on the promises. Hence the aim of the Summit is to provide a platform for African Think Tanks and other key stakeholders to engage in a high-level deliberation on the most effective ways of addressing the capacity challenges facing the implementation of the AfCFTA to accelerate its implementation and enhance country readiness in implementing and benefiting from the Agreement, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Prof. Nnadozie said.

In his remarks Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Afreximbank, represented by Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist and Director, Research & International Cooperation Department at Afreximbank, said the AfCFTA had the potential to transform African economies and boost intra-African trade.

Professor Kevin Chika Urama, Senior Director at the African Development Institute of the African Development Bank Group said the Think Tank Summit had come at an opportune time when the African continent is in the process of coming up with policies to achieve growth and “build back better post COVID-19.”

“This is a clarion call for Africa to accelerate the implementation of this agreement to be able to achieve the great implications of trade for development,” said Prof. Urama.

The Summit is discussing various topics, among them: Understanding the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for making AfCFTA a reality, exploring the critical determinants of country readiness in implementing the AfCFTA, identifying key capacity issues facing the implementation of the AfCFTA at the continental and country levels, building the capacity of frontline state actors and institutions to effectively drive the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The other topics are: building the capacity of SMEs as a driving force for success in the implementation of the AfCFTA, the role of Think Tanks in supporting the implementation of the AfCFTA and establishing partnerships and coordination mechanisms to enhance country readiness.