The Africa Economic Conference 2018 (AEC) has noted with concern that hunger, gender imbalance and a growing population with young people moving away from rural areas is threatening the future of agriculture and primary production.

The African Economic Conference, held annually, is the continent’s leading forum fostering dialogue and knowledge exchange in the search for solutions to the development challenges of Africa. It brings together leading academics, high-ranking government representatives, and development practitioners from across the globe.

This was revealed by Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Rwanda’s Deputy Governor of the Rwanda National Bank as she voiced concern on hunger challenges facing some parts of Africa.

“A third of the population of the East African region are affected by hunger,” said Dr Nsanzabaganwa.

“While the gender pay gap means that 75% of women are working for no wages. We heard other panelists emphasising fragility, the importance of governance, strong institutions and ensuring that policy makers do not exclude women and ordinary people involved in agriculture, which will play a unique role in the integration process.”

The delegates also discussed the risks of integration, including fragility, a rising youth population, unemployment and hunger, as well as examples of good practice and recommendations to avoid or mitigate the risks.

44 African nations signed the landmark African Continental Free Trade agreement (AfCFTA) earlier this year, which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and capital, paving the way for the creation of the African customs union.

The agreement also has its challenges and some of these were the focus of the plenary session entitled: “Driving Equity, Inclusion and Innovation for Africa’s Transformation through Regional Integration.”

Ngone Diop of the Economic Commission for Africa warned that more than half the population were being ignored and that measures must be taken to ensure food security and to protect the women “at the heart of the process.”

The Head of Trade and Regional Integration at the Economic Policy Research Centre, Uganda, Dr. Isaac Shinyekwa emphasised the need for training and industrialisation.

Summarising the discussion, UNDP country director Stephen Rodriques pointed out that successful integration would entail both national and regional resolve to address the risks that could impede the full implementation of AfCFTA.

“We know that there are multiple fault lines and risks… many issues are cross-border. Regional public issues should be addressed proportionately. Education and skills training, for example, has to be addressed as a continental agenda,” Rodriques said.

This year’s AEC focus was “transformative initiatives for accelerating progress in infrastructure integration that are inclusive and promote equity, including the removal of barriers for movement of people, goods, and services across borders.”

A truly successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement cannot be achieved without the “people dimension,” which ensures that the integration process will be inclusive and not lead to inequalities.

By African Daily Voice (ADV)

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