Amidst disquiet, Morocco to host 2019 Conference of African finance ministers

What would have ended a fulfilling session was almost marred by crisis of politics of the next host of the Economic Commission of Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that shortly before formal closing of the four-day event on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the session became almost uncontrollable when delegates challenged the announcement of Kingdom of Morocco as the host of the 52nd session.

The situation, which took about two hours to resolve, almost took the shine off recommendations by the stakeholders on the theme of the 51st session: “African Continental Free Trade Area, fiscal space for jobs and economic diversification.”

At one of the plenary sessions on Monday, delegates from Morocco had offered the country as the next host.

NAN reports that the offer had gone unchallenged until the end of proceedings the following day when delegates from other countries, including Algeria, South Africa, amongst others, raised objection, asking for “rules of procedure” to be followed.

Incidentally, the rules of procedure, as captured in Article Two of the Conference, specified that the next host must be announced at the end of the preceding session.

The situation validated the Moroccan’s offer as no other country showed interest in hosting the event.

Earlier, the delegates had reaffirmed commitment to regional integration as a major driving force behind inclusive development on the continent.

They said: “We welcome the new milestone reached in African integration, through the signing of the agreement establishing the African continental Free Trade Area, in Kigali on March 21 by 44 members of the African Union.

“We welcome the launch of the single African air transport market in January 2018, which has the potential to improve the efficiency of continental air transport and to contribute to the growth of the continent’s global share of the aviation and tourism industry.

“We recognise the potential of the AfCFTA to advance African industrialisation, economic diversification and development that sustain the creation of decent jobs and foster prosperity for all, consistent with Agenda 2063 of AU and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We also recognise the importance of enhancing fiscal space and sustainability in our countries and maintaining investment in the social sector, particularly in health and education.”

The meeting also addressed key issues for the continent, including agriculture’s role in economic growth, financing infrastructure, tackling illicit financial flows and an integrated strategy for the Sahel.

Commending the organisers for focussing on “real African issues”, Dr. Robert Nantchouang, Senior Knowledge Management Expert from the African Capacity Building Foundation, said the meeting successfully highlighted pressing issues related to the economic and integration agenda.

“It was a timely and opportune moment for African countries to gather around a common issue that was embraced by all participants. Nobody was left behind in this discussion,” Nantchouang said.

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA, reaffirmed the commitment of her organisation to support governments moving towards economic integration through its convening, thought process and operational functions.

The meeting recognised the pre-eminent role of human and institutional capacity building that would enable the AfCFTA to meet many of the continent’s development needs.

“Africa is waiting. Our challenges are huge but we are on the way to solving them through the AfCFTA,” Songwe said.

NAN reports that countries will now be required to ratify and implement the legal instruments of the AfCFTA agreement that would create a trade bloc with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion together with an additional 300,000 direct and two million indirect jobs, according to the AU.

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