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By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah
The Chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC) has lauded Ghana’s contributions in creating a single market for the African continent as a prerequisite for continental development and eradication of poverty.
Moussa Faki Mahamat said the sitting of the African Continent Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) in Ghana is a further realization of Ghana’s drive to see the full integration of the African continent as envisaged by the founding fathers of Africa.
Mr. Mahamat made this known on Monday during the commissioning and handing over of the AFCFTA Secretariat building by the Republic of Ghana to the AUC at Accra.
“Indeed, today marks a historic milestone in the road to fulfilling the vision of our Founding Fathers for Continental Integration, that dates back to the inaugural session of the OAU in 1963, articulated most strongly by then President Kwame Nkrumah in his landmark speech,” he indicated.
Mr. Mahamat said it was fitting that the secretariat had its home in Accra, observing that Ghana was a historical trading centre for gold, cocoa and timbers and other valuable goods, and remained an important center of commerce on the Continent and beyond.
He added that, “Accra is also, and has always been a guardian of our collective Pan African memory, not only as a home of thought but also as a port of safety and freedom for fellow Africans fleeing persecution, and for people of African descent seeking refuge or simply coming back home.”
Mr. Mahamat assured of the success of the free trade agenda of the AU by quoting Kwame Nkrumah when he said that, “The task ahead is great indeed, heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge. A challenge which calls for the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to fight, the courage to achieve.”
The AUC insisted that “It is this same spirit of unity, that has brought us here today, to this physical manifestation of a key economic pan African agenda that will be led by Honourable Wamkele Mwene, whose vast experience, vision and competence belies his relative youth. Congratulations and I’m sure you will take care of this beautiful headquarters.”
Mr. Mahamat informed that despite the devastating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on global trade which also caused the postponement of the operetionalization of the secretariat, “The same pandemic has also magnified the urgent need for speed to accelerate economic integration on the Continent.”
He informed that, “This crisis with its negative impact on trade and the multilateral system, is also an opportunity to rethink our value chains and reduce our reliance on traditional supply routes.”
Mr. Mahamat observed that to ensure Africa could absorb the negative impacts of future pandemics, the continent must integrate its markets, accelerate industrial development, enhance competitiveness to ensure a prosperous, peaceful and integrated future for the African people.
He said Africa took a strong and early action, to the surprise of many when Covid-19 hit the world. “We opened essential corridors to facilitate the transport and delivery of urgently needed equipment and first responders to member states,” he added.
The AUC chairman said Africa demonstrated her resilience and also her sense of cooperation and solidarity in the face of this common threat by setting up “a pooled procurement platform of medical supplies for member states, and Africa CDC, the AU agency for public health emergencies, is ably coordinating the continental response,” among others.
Mr. Mahamat thanked President Nana Akufo-Addoh for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality during his visit, and the Ghanaian president’s steadfast leadership in making the strong and legitimate case for the Secretariat to be hosted in Ghana, which included contributing financial resources “to ensure that this important symbol of our Union was built and ready today.”
He also paid tribute to President Issoufou Mohamaddou of Niger and Champion of the flagship AfCFTA project, indicating that, “His strong and sustained advocacy oversaw the fastest ratification and entry into force of an AU instrument second only to that of the AU Constitutive Act.”
Other personalities he appreciated were President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairman of the African Union, African trade and foreign affairs ministers including Alan Kyerematen and Shirley Botchwey as well as the AU Commissioner for Trade Dr Albert Muchanga.
The AFCFTA will administer the free trade agreement in Africa, creating a single market for 55 countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion and a total Gross Domestic Product of about US $ 2.5 trillion. So far, 54 countries have signed the agreement with 28 countries ratifying same.