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AfCFTA is Africa’s last chance for economic integration, says Wamkele Mene

The secretary general of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, says that implementation of the AfCFTA is Africa’s last chance to attain economic integration

The secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, says the successful implementation of the AfCFTA agreement is Africa’s last chance to attain the economic integration that has eluded the African Union (AU) thus far.

The AfCFTA Secretariat boss made this observation when he addressed Ghana’s national conference on the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) on 20 October 2020.

The conference was under the theme “Empowering Ghanaian Businesses to Harness the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement under the framework of the National Export Development Strategy (NEDS)”.

“ln the last two to three months, the World Bank has observed that if Africa implements this agreement properly, whatever properly may mean, by the year 2035 we will be able to lift out of extreme poverty 28 million Africans,” Wamkele Mene said. “If we implement this agreement properly, by the year 2035, we will be able to lift 68 million Africans out of moderate poverty.

“We therefore have a very daunting challenge ahead of us to make sure that the millions of Africans who are looking upon us, who are looking upon this AfCFTA, and who are looking upon the leadership of Ghana, that indeed, we do not disappoint them.

“This is Africa’s last chance. We will not get another opportunity to overcome the smallness of our individual economies. We will not get another opportunity to overcome fragmentation of our markets in Africa. We will not get another opportunity to build an integrated market which is projected by 2035 to have a combined GDP of consumer spending of US$7.8 trillion. And, therefore, we have to confront the challenges that will confront us,” the AfCFTA secretary general added.

The guests at the conference included Nana Osei-Bonsu, chief executive of the Private Enterprise Foundation

President Akufo-Addo

In a keynote address at the same event, President Akufo-Addo reiterated Ghana’s support for the aims and objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement. He further said that the whole continent must join forces to ensure that the implementation of the AfCFTA is successful.

“The government is fully committed to the implementation of the AfCFTA. With the collective desire for shared prosperity, we are confident that the AfCFTA will succeed and generate a new impetus and dynamism to the rapid growth of Africa’s economies and deepen the process of integration and unification in Africa,” the president said.

“Let us work together as stakeholders and strategic partners to unravel the complexities of regional integration and ensure that the implementation of the AfCFTA leaves no one behind,” President Akufo-Addo said.

The AfCFTA

The agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019 for the 24 countries that had deposited their instruments of ratification.

This date marked 30 days since 22 countries had deposited their ratification instruments with the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson – the designated depository for this purpose, as stipulated in Article 23 of the agreement.

The AUC reached the 22-country threshold conforming with legal provisions on 29 April 2019 when Sierra Leone and the Saharaoui Republic deposited their instruments of ratification with the depository. To date, 30 countries have both signed and ratified the AfCFTA Agreement. Of the 55 AU member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign.

President Akufo-Addo (second right), the AfCFTA secretary general, Wamkele Mene (left), Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and Minister of Trade Alan Kyerematen stand for the National Anthem at the start of the conference

The operational phase of the AfCFTA was launched at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019.

The AfCFTA will be governed by five operational instruments: the rules of origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.

Trading under the AfCFTA Agreement was due to commence on 1 July 2020 but after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the date was postponed. The new date for operationalisation is 1 January 2021.

Click on the link to listen to the secretary general of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene.

 

Click on the link to listen to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

 

Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio

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