Geneva. - To directly deliver on-the-spot authoritative advice on trade and development issues to policymakers and all stakeholders in Africa, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has opened a regional office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Regional Office for Africa will be headed by Ms. Joy Kategekwa, a Ugandan former official with the World Trade Organization. The first UNCTAD office of its kind, the Africa branch will, in the words of UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, help "make trade work for Africa".
Trade among African countries is very low relative to the continent’s total trade. Over the past decade, the share of intra-African trade in Africa’s total trade was about 11 per cent, as compared to 21 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean, 50 per cent for developing Asia and 70 per cent for Europe.
"Africa is at a crossroads in its trade agenda," Dr. Kituyi said. "Never has the political momentum and support for deeper trade integration been higher on the continent."
"Having UNCTAD on the ground provides Africa the opportunity to use UNCTAD's extensive technical and analytical resources," Dr. Kituyi added. By providing the "missing link" between recommendations and actions "the Regional Office for Africa will play a leading role in coordinating the delivery of UNCTAD's advisory services in support of implementation of the post-2015 agenda for African countries".
The office is supposed to help African governments to accelerate regional economic integration in Africa, Dr. Kituyi said. This should contribute to bringing prosperity to Africans by embedding their companies into regional value chains and making their economies more productive.
"UNCTAD has the necessary tool kit to support Africa in these processes," Dr. Kituyi said.
Speaking at the inauguration, African Union Trade Commissioner Fatima Haram Acyl, said: "We would like UNCTAD to support us on Africa’s regional integration agenda, most especially the continental free trade area (CFTA). We are already receiving significant support, but we need more."
African Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Anthony Mothae Maruping, also present, added: "It was a good decision to come closer to Africa where the action on development actually is. The UNCTAD mandate is very much needed on the continent and we will benefit from bringing global experience to Africa."
Ms. Kategekwa, the newly appointed head of the office, said that it had "already played a lead role in launching UNCTAD's Economic Development in Africa Report and will be working to follow up with member States in taking its recommendations forward".
In addition, she said, the office "will be central to delivering support to the African Union Commission and its member States in the process of negotiating the African Union CFTA".
UNCTAD – the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – was formed in 1964 to help poor countries adopt policies that would integrate them into the world economy and boost prosperity. UNCTAD is based at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland, and has a representative office at the United Nations in New York. It works at the behest of 194 member States and employs roughly 500 people.