ITIDA Explores Enhancing Cooperation with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

21 January 2021

Engineer Amr Mahfouz, Information Technology Industry Development Agency’s CEO, has welcomed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) delegation, led by H.E. Mr. Wamkele Mene the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, during a meeting held on the 20th of January 2021.

The meeting comes after the official launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, aiming to merge the 54 African countries in one market and to double the trade rate among African countries in the upcoming 15 years.

The CEO of ITIDA congratulated Mr. Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general of the AfCFTA, on his new appointment and vital role as Secretary-General. Mahfouz noted that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) attaches great importance to activating the terms of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, by closely reviewing all aspects related to trade and financial integration within the framework of the agreement, and providing all means of support to help the secretariat achieve its objectives.

Mahfouz added that the ICT sector is one of the first sectors to initiate presenting schedules of commitments to liberalize services such as (telecommunications services, express mail services, computer services, and all related services), in order to encourage other countries to enter into the agreement and to assist them in the implementation of commitments to enhance opportunities for increased trade between African states in Communications and Information Technology Services.

Mahfouz stated that MCIT and ITIDA are looking forward to participating in sectoral negotiations concerned with the agreement’s articles regarding cooperation in the various fields of the information technology sector, aiming to establish a common vision between member states.

Mahfouz added that the suggested cooperation framework meets MCIT’s strategy, which aims at increasing IT exports of services and products, protecting intellectual property rights, transferring knowledge, human resources development and training, and creating job opportunities.

In addition to this, the negotiations aim at establishing support centers in Egypt, that cater to the global IT offshoring markets to serve the continent as a whole, and attract more foreign investments in the field of communication and information technology.

The suggested cooperation framework also calls for assigning Egyptian companies to implement projects, especially in the field of digital transformation and telecom infrastructure in the continent.

Mahfouz noted that the agreement ought to take advantage of Egypt's privileged geographical position to become Africa's gateway to European and GCC markets. He stressed the need to explore African markets and identify opportunities for Egyptian companies to offer their products and services in these markets.

Mahfouz highlighted the Ministry’s keenness to deepen and localize electronics manufacture in the continent within the agreement, through exchanging experiences and knowledge and making this goal a top priority.

The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, said that the implementation of the agreement will provide unprecedented opportunities to promote the growth of the continent's economies and increase Africa’s contribution to the world trade, noting the pivotal role of the agreement in supporting development efforts by linking African markets, and thus revitalizing both the industrial and agricultural sectors in African countries, and developing the continent's economic system.

Mene added that the technological applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and e-commerce are among the priorities of the agreement and come at the top of the agenda of the second phase of negotiations, which will start next July. He also noted that digital services will play an important role in facilitating procedures and communication through the creation of digital platforms that promote intra-trade and market integration, pointing to the importance of strengthening cooperation to reach drafting joint formulations of legislation that stimulate foreign investment in the fields of Information Technology for member states.

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