EU/Presidency: African free trade agreement fundamental for economic development – business

The chairman of Mota-Engil Africa, Manuel Mota, said on Thursday that the free trade agreement in Africa is fundamental for the development of the continent, as it fosters regional integration, which is fundamental for economic development.

“The free trade agreement in Africa is key to developing economies, because the easiest way to grow is to grow together, similar to what was done in Europe, with the European Union, and in Africa they are trying to do the same,” said the leader of the Portuguese construction company during the Portugal-Africa business seminar “Exporting ‘Green’ – Internationalisation of companies in the era of sustainability,” organised by the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is being held today in virtual format from Lisbon.

“Most large infrastructures under construction serve to connect countries, the large projects underway focus on the development of the country, but also on creating conditions for trade between countries,” Manuel Mota pointed out, exemplifying some of his projects in Nigeria and Niger.

“We have to look at the continent thinking about integration and trade between countries, which were developed during the colonial era to export independently of the neighbour, which created a legacy of little regional integration,” he noted.

In Africa, “there is everything to do, it is a continent of opportunities, of the future, but also of the present.

Asked whether the pandemic made it more difficult or maintained the difficulties of funding projects on the continent, perceived as more risky, Manuel Mota said that “it became more difficult with the pandemic” and argued that “we need to be pragmatic with funding.

European economies, he argued, benefitted from large amounts of public aid during last year’s recession, which did not happen on the African continent: “Many Small and Medium Sized Enterprises disappeared, European governments made a huge effort to sustain the economies and this is not possible in Africa,” a continent affected not only by the slowdown in economic activity, but also by the high level of public debt, which makes funding more expensive.

“There has been a huge financial impact, but the pandemic has also served to open people’s eyes to the fact that financing is necessary to support these countries and their development,” he concluded.

The agreement to create the African Continental Free Trade Area was signed by 54 African countries (out of a total of 55), including all the Portuguese-language African countries (PALOPs) and ratified by 31 countries, such as South Africa, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria, among others, and came into operation on 1 January this year.