The President said boosting intra-African trade will accelerate continental integration, develop larger markets and foster greater competition which will help in poverty reduction, growth and sustainable development.
“Equally, pooling economies and markets through regional integration will provide a sufficiently wide economic and market space to make new economies of scale,” the President said.
President Kenyatta spoke on Saturday at the ongoing African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, before he travelled back to Nairobi to open the 14 session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 14).
He expressed concern that while 40% of North American trade is with other North American countries and 63% of trade by countries in Western Europe is with other Western European nations, only about12% of African trade is with other African nations.
But the Head of State told the summit – also addressed by AU Chairperson, President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad – that a free trade area promised economic independence for the continent.
He cited job creation in the public and private sectors, increased food security through reduction of protection rate on trade in agricultural and competitiveness of Africa’s industrial products as some of the benefits that would accrue to African countries from the establishment of the CFTA.
Other benefits of a continental free trade area are increased rate of diversification and transformation of Africa’s economy and its ability to meet its import needs from within, better allocation of resources, improved competition and reduced price differentials among African countries.
The President said the CFTA would also boost growth of intra-industry trade and the development of geographically based specialization in Africa, reduce vulnerability to external trade shocks and enhance the continent’s participation in global trade to reduce dependency on aid and external borrowing.
President Kenyatta also contributed to the summit’s discussions on the African year of human rights with particular focus on women’s rights, where he said countries that respect women’s rights witness faster development.
Noting the inequalities facing African women especially in urban areas, the President urged the leaders to make deliberate efforts to remove hurdles that prevent women from enjoying human rights.
“That is why Africa must seize the chance presented by the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (HABITAT III), to be held in Quito later this year,” the President said.
He said the continent must engage the global community in shaping the New Urban Agenda as articulated in the Common African Position on Habitat III (CAPH3) to ensure women and children in Africa lead dignified lives in cities.
“I must urge all of you present today to support it when it is brought before us for adoption later during this Summit,” the President said.
President Kenyatta said he looked forward to working closely with all leaders to ensure the strengthening of the UN-Habitat in Nairobi.