In March last year, Equity Bank launched the African Recovery and Resilience Plan. A private sector focused stimulus package to accelerate economic recovery and resilience in the Eastern and Central Africa region as it recovers from the devastating health, social, humanitarian, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a huge and potentially very successful undertaking and Equity is working with quite a number of partners, one of them being the African Continental Free Trade Area. This is “a high ambition trade agreement with a comprehensive scope that includes critical areas of Africa’s economy, such as digital trade and investment protection, amongst other areas. By eliminating barriers to trade in Africa, the objective of the AfCFTA is to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, particularly trade in value-added production and trade across all sectors of Africa’s economy”. Source.
The MoU cementing this partnership was signed in mid-July in Lusaka Zambia and the parties made it clear that it is not just a document signed for the sake of signing. It is an expression of an aligned vision and objectives for what our continent can and should do in terms of building individual country economies and the continent as a whole.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is a formidable partner in the African Recovery and Resilience Plan because it will facilitate the opening up of regional markets. After all, all the six pillars that Equity is actualizing the plan under lead to a need for adequate market for final products.
Africa has a market base of upto 1.4 billion people and AfCFTA will come in to smooth trade barriers occasioned by country policies and structures. This is a crucial part of the success of the recovery plan because it would be of no use to empower agriculture, manufacturing, mining, value addition and other economic activities without an assured market here at home before thinking of the export market. AfCFTA is a powerful avenue to complete the cycle.
Equity is the first private institution that the African Continental Free Trade Area is entering into an MoU with, and this demonstrates the commitment of both organizations to an Africa by its people for its people through trade and development. Equity is also in partnership with states, regional blocks and 16 development banks for co-financing, syndication, and harmonizing. This multi-pronged approach is what will ensure that all areas of the recovery plan are covered.
Other than AfCFTA, the recovery plan has also won the support of partners like AfDB, IFC, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union, European Development Banks, the Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as the national governments of the six countries the Group operates in.
The recovery plan will have special focus on youth and women, supporting them to be the primary drivers of creating and expanding opportunities in the real economy. Equity bank has always had programs for women economic empowerment and there is no doubt that this plan is a greater leap towards the same.