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UNECA canvasses stronger African voice in global arena

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Vera Songwe

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has highlighted the importance of groupings such as T20 Africa in bringing Africa’s case to the global stage, particularly to the G20.

In a keynote address at the beginning of T20 Africa Standing Group’s annual meeting, Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe said Africa needs to have its voice heard in meetings of groupings such as the G20 that make decisions that have a direct impact on sustainable development on the continent.

The Africa Standing Group seeks to engage in cross-regional joint knowledge production and provide evidence-based policy advice related to cooperation between the G20 and Africa.

“As a continent we are intimately linked to a lot of the different discussions that are happening at the G20 but have failed to be able to put our case or to at least claim our position in those discussions,” she said.

Ms. Songwe and the delegates from over 30 think tanks attending the meeting, discussed key topical issues, including the global debt problem, migration, the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), peace, illicit financial flows, shadow pricing, tax base erosion, data, domestic resource mobilization and the need for the creation of African rating agencies.

“The T-20 group is extremely important because around the G7 and G20 there’s a whole army of institutions that writes policy notes for the different governments but we don’t have a singular army of policy makers like ourselves saying this is Africa’s position,” she said.

On the AfCFTA, the ECA Chief said; “We have been doing a lot of work as the continent moving towards the continental free trade agreement but the rest of the world does not necessarily understand what we are trying to do so we are struggling and we have pressures from the Europeans, from the Americans with AGOA, with the EPAs saying what does this mean.”

She continued: “I think it is in groups like this whose voice can get us to the G20 and whose voice can put these discussions on the table that says you should be supporting the continental free trade area because if we want Africa to add value, to increase in prosperity then it’s going to happen through trade.”

Africa, Ms. Songwe said, has decided with the on-going reforms of the African Union that it will work more effectively with one voice if it is to succeed in bringing growth and prosperity to its people, adding its leaders still believe in trade and that trade is what will bring growth and prosperity to the continent.

“We are not reinventing anything new and the fact that Africa is moving forwards a continental free trade agreement does not mean that Africa does not want to trade with the rest of the world. It means that Africa wants to retool itself; Africa wants to strengthen itself; Africa wants to reboot,” she added.

The ECA Chief said African leaders are more than ever engaged in discussions on improving their economies; dealing with the debt crisis and related issues.

“We are living in a period that we have not seen before. The leaders are very engaged on economic issues on the continent,” she told the meeting.

For her part, T20 Africa’s Elizabeth Sidiropoulos said Africa’s voice was crucial in global discussions as most of the world’s decisions impacted the continent one way or the other. She said the level of engagement between Africa and the G20 was insufficient and the meeting will explore that and more issues.

The T20 Africa annual meeting will discuss policy briefs and targeted recommendations to improve cooperation between G20 and Africa on global issues, among other issues. South Africa is the only African country on the G20.

The T20 Africa Standing Group, which was launched in 2017, is part of the Think 20 process, one of the official engagement groups of G20. T20 is a politically independent network of research institutes and think tanks from the G20 countries that facilitates interaction and dialogue among its members and policy makers.

It engages in cross-regional joint knowledge production and provides evidence-based policy advice related to cooperation between emerging economies of the G20, other G20 members and Africa. The network has more than 30 leading think tanks from emerging economies, other G20 countries and Africa.


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