BUSINESSMED and KAS Poldimed organize joint workshop on sustainable economic recovery

A South-South Regional Integration Conference under the theme: A Way Forward to a Sustainable Economic Post-COVID-19 Recovery” was organized by the Regional Programme Political Dialogue South Mediterranean of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS PolDiMed) and the Union of the Mediterranean Confederations of Enterprises (BUSINESSMED).

The main objectives of the conference, held as part of the efforts undertaken to connect rescue to a sustainable economic recovery in the region, were to gather experts and specialists from all the regions to examine South-South economic integration’s background from legal, academic, professional, and governmental perspectives. It also aims to provide an overview of the state of the art, challenges and lessons learnt of the existing economic cooperation mechanisms.

The workshop’s different discussions and exchanges, in which took part Mr. Mondher Khanfir, Vice President of the Tunisia – Africa Business Council and in charge of the Think Tank, are meant to also highlight perspectives on south-south cooperation post-COVID-19 and to share testimonials and success stories.

The session highlighted proven approaches and informed recommendations to address future challenges of regional economic integration and foster South-South cooperation, emphasizing the prospects of intra-regional trade and the role of African employers to catalyze economic integration on the continent.

Mr. Khanfir advocated for the creation of large regional marketplaces for agricultural commodities in Africa, and the revision of infrastructure business models through digitization… a theme that will be addressed in greater depth at the 2022 edition of the international conference “Financing Investment & Trade in Africa” to be held in May in Tunisia.

The event started with the opening words from Mr Tomas VOLK, Director of KAS Poldimed, who emphasized the importance of these kinds of events for a better and more efficient regional integration in the region in order to achieve a sustainable economic recovery after the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr Volk also stated that the opening of the Mediterranean to the sub-Saharan African countries is not a choice anymore and is a perfect way to achieve this recovery.

Ever since its outbreak early in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge and disrupt economies around the world. The impact is particularly salient for Africa, which saw decades’ worth of economic and social progress erased almost overnight.

The sanitary crisis exposed and exacerbated preexisting bottlenecks and endemic challenges. Rampant unemployment, unsustainable debt, governance woes, increased extreme poverty and climate change are enduring structural challenges that predate the pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mrs Jihen Boutiba, Director-General of BUSINESSMED said that: “the South needs to adopt a strategic vision in terms of strengthening its regional value chains as well as intra-regional trade and investments in order to become self-reliant, namely through the integration of regional value chains in health and agri-food sectors, as well as enhanced south-south financial cooperation, etc.” In that sense, the post-covid era could be an opportunity to rethink the value chains within the region by considering reshoring and nearshoring of businesses on the southern Mediterranean shores and sub-Saharan Africa. When it comes to South-South cooperation, we believe in BUSINESSMED that the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa’s private sector are well placed to further contribute to the setting of African economies on a more balanced, broad-based and diversified growth path.”

Economies based on extractive resources, notably the continent’s two leading economies (Nigeria and South Africa), were the most hit by the crisis in 2020 due to the drop in energy demand. Likewise, countries that rely on tourism, which was sharply affected by border closings in 2020 and the halt of international flights, are still being penalized today by the health restrictions that continue to be applied in many areas around the world.

The recovery is taking shape both in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, due to the mitigation of COVID-19 restrictions coupled with the vaccine rollout, although it runs the risk of being uneven. Hence, it is critically important to conceive regional integration and cooperation arrangements as part and parcel of an enabling environment for a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future.


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