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By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah
Gitficonline.com—President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo says the decision of the African Union (AU) to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is an instrumental achievement which would enhance Africa’s development.
“I have no doubt that the coming into being of the African Continental Free Trade Area is one of the most important decisions taken by the AU,” the Ghanaian leader observes.
President Akufo-Addo made this observation on Monday during the commissioning and handing over of the AfCFTA secretariat building by the Republic of Ghana to the African Union Commission (AUC) in Accra.
In a speech before the commissioning, President Akufo-Addo said, “When you consider the fact that trade between African countries remains low, currently standing at some 16% of our combined GDP, compared to other parts of the world, like the European Union’s 75%, it is obvious that these very low levels of intra-regional trade constitute one of the defining characteristics of our continuing poverty.”
The Ghanaian president said the low trade between member states hindered prospects of bringing prosperity to the African people, insisting that a large percentage of the growth and prosperity the continent sought would come from Africans trading more among themselves.
“We, in Ghana, believe that an increase in trade is the surest way to deepen regional integration in Africa. It will mean a rapid increase in the exchange of agricultural, industrial, financial, scientific, and technological products, which would significantly enhance our economic fortunes as a continent, create prosperity, and provide opportunities for employment for the broad masses of Africans, particularly the youth, President Akufo-Addo said.
The president informed that the economic integration of Africa would lay a strong foundation for an ‘Africa Beyond Aid’ and “it is for this reason that I have continued in the footsteps of my predecessors in fighting for the cause of African unity.”
In entrenching Africa’s ability to create prosperity for her people, the Ghanaian president insisted that an effective implementation of the AfCFTA would dispel the notion that the AU was not capable of executing its own decisions. “Africa’s new sense of urgency and aspiration of true self-reliance will be amply demonstrated by today’s ceremony. In this regard, I appeal to all Member States, who are yet to ratify the AfCFTA Agreement, to take advantage of the postponement of the date for start of trading, and do so by December 2020, to enable us trade fully among ourselves, so we can harness the benefits of the AfCFTA together,” the president said.
President Akufo-Addo informed that the COVID-19 pandemic had heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA, because the disruption of global supply chains had reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst African states so that Africans could boost their mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen their economies and reduce their dependence on external sources.
“So, I urge Member States to put in an extra effort to conclude all outstanding implementation issues, for their adoption by the AU Assembly in the next Extraordinary Summit scheduled for December 2020, to pave way for the smooth commencement of trading from 1st January, 2021, “ the Ghanaian President asked.
He said the world was watching to see whether the Secretariat would provide the foundation for Africa’s economic integration and rapid growth, and pledge the support of the Government of Ghana for the work of the secretariat.
President Akufo-Addo praised Ghana’s role in promoting unity in Africa by saying, “Indeed, for a country generally acknowledged as the pioneer of modern pan-Africanism under the dynamic leadership of our first President, Kwame Nkrumah, a country whose people made great sacrifices to spearhead the struggle for the liberation of the African continent from colonialism, imperialism and the racist system of apartheid, this is the first time, in our sixty-three (63) years of nationhood and in the fifty-seven years of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the AU, that we have the responsibility and privilege of hosting an important pan-African institution.
“So, today is an auspicious day for Ghana, and, on behalf of the Ghanaian people and their Government, I express our deep appreciation, once again, to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU for its decision.”
The coming into force of AfCFTA makes the African continent the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, “And we must make it count,” the president said.
Covering a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion across the fifty-four (54) Member States of the AU that have signed up to the Agreement, it will provide the vehicle to trade among member states in a more modern and sophisticated manner, offer a huge opportunity to exploit the abundant resources of the continent for the benefit of the African, and give the continent protection in dealing with other trading blocks in the world.
The AfCFTA Framework agreement provides for a functionally autonomous, independent institution within the AU system. In upholding this and other provisions of the Agreement, the Secretary-General would work towards building a strong, efficient and effective Secretariat with the capacity to implement the various trade rules in line with the text of the Agreement, build credibility, and reduce trade policy uncertainties on the continent.