By Nana Achiaa Aboagye
Member states of the African Union have held a flag-raising ceremony in Accra to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the confederation. The Organisation of African Unity – OAU, now AU, was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 60 years ago, through the instrumentality of some African leaders including Ghana’s first President – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Since its commencement in January 2021, the AfCFTA has provided Africa with a unique opportunity to create a single market for goods and services, promote industrialization, and enhance the continent’s competitiveness on the global stage.
AfCFTA is the largest free trade area in the world by the number of participating countries. The theme for this year’s AU anniversary is ‘Accelerated Implementation of the AfCFTA’, with the hashtag “OurAfrica OurFuture” It brings to the fore, the essence of free trade among African countries.
It also seeks to synergize the efforts of government agencies in sensitizing the public to AfCFTA and its benefits. Unlike the 1960s, when the main goal of African leaders was political liberation of the continent from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism, the collective goal of Africa now, is the socio-economic emancipation of the African people.
Some notable personalities who attended the ceremony was the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco and Dean of the African Group, Mrs. Imane Ouaadil. She paid tribute to Ghana for brightly hosting the Secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area for being for being the first country to be part of the guided initiative to trade goods under preferential rules of Africa.
She assured her commitment to take an active part in all future initiatives and endeavors that aim to achieve prosperity and well-being of our beautiful resourceful continent.
The Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, Mr. Wamkele Mene urged all Africans to get involved in the actualization of the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. He said the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March 2018 was a momentous event in the decades-long effort of the African Union to integrate the economies of our continent. He added that it is a tremendous milestone in the pursuit of inclusive and sustainable economic development in Africa, demonstrating the continent’s commitment to shaping its own economic destiny.
Mr. Wamkele Mene noted that it makes Africa the largest free-trade area in the world, with a population now of 1.4 billion people and a combined GDP Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of US$ 8.86 trillion making Africa the 4th largest economy in the world.
The AfCFTA will boost intra-Africa trade, reignite industrialisation, and pave the way for the meaningful integration of Africa into global value chains and the global economy in general.
He said This year, our priority is to finalise all these outstanding issues and also work to bring on board the remaining non-state parties to ensure that the AfCFTA operates at full capacity to maximise its benefits adding that we must focus on how best we can accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA to help us achieve Agenda 2063.
He reaffirmed a strong commitment of the AfCFTA Secretariat to work with all the AU member States and partners to effectively execute our mandate to help achieve the goals and aspirations of the AfCFTA towards an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, for the benefit of all Africans. He said ambition is to take the AfCFTA to the next level. We want to see trading in ‘made-in-Africa goods and services taking place across the length and breadth of the continent, improving the lives of the people of Africa.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mr. Kwaku Ampratwum-Sarpong said the time to harness opportunities under AfCFTA for Africa’s sustainable development, is now. He said the trade regime has the potential to transform the economic landscape of our continent and strengthen our position in the global market. To this end, it is imperative that we expedite action on the implementation of the various arrangements and protocols to ensure citizens of Africa, individuals and groups, benefit fully.
Mr. Ampratwum-Sarpong stated that AfCFTA, the largest free trade area in the world by the number of participating countries, is a reason for all Africans to commit to the promotion of intra-African trade and economic integration. Since its commencement in January 2021, AfCFTA has provided us with a unique opportunity to create a single market for goods and services, promote industrialisation, and enhance our competitiveness on the global stage.
He added led that accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA arrangements is crucial for several reasons, significant amongst them, is the potential to stimulate economic growth and development across Africa, by removing barriers to trade, such as tariffs, quotas and dumping. He said this will culminate in increased trade within Africa through the creation of a larger single markets, boosting economies of scale, and attracting direct foreign investment.
He said AfCFTA provides us with the opportunities to diversify our economies to considerably reduce the continent’s dependency on commodity imports. By promoting intra-African trade, we can strengthen regional value chains and develop industries within the continent. This will enhance our economic resilience, foster sustainable development, and reduce vulnerability to external shocks, such the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Through its implementation, Africans can unlock the full potential of our resources and move towards more inclusive and sustainable growth.
He mentioned that to achieve the full benefits of the AfCFTA, we must collectively address key areas, such as infrastructure development, adequate transportation networks, logistical capabilities, and digital connectivity that are critical in facilitating the free movement of people, goods, and services across our continent. By investing in these, we can reduce trade costs, expedite transactions, enhance connectivity, and ensure seamless trade flows within the African continent.
Another key area worth attention is capacity building and skill development, which are imperative to achieving the overall AfCFTA objectives.
He called for investment in our human capital to equip African businesses with the requisite skills and knowledge to compete globally. Strengthening institutional frameworks, improving the regulatory environment, and providing targeted support to small and medium-sized enterprises will be instrumental in building the capacity needed for a thriving business ecosystem. By empowering our entrepreneurs, we can create an environment conducive to innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable economic growth.
Additionally, regional integration and policy harmonization are key drivers of successful implementation. Aligning regulations, customs procedures and technical standards can simplify trade processes, reduce bureaucratic hurdles, and facilitate the movement of goods and services across borders. Collaboration among African nations is vital to achieving regional integration and policy harmonization. We must work together to ensure that the AfCFTA is fully operational and that its benefits are accessible to all.
He was upbeat that AfCFTA will build on the progress achieved by our sub-regional economic commissions through their customs unions, free trade areas and other trading arrangements. The connection will similarly advance progress in the implementation of other sectors, such as peace and security, as states that trade between themselves will not go to war. Others include climate change, health, education, and infrastructure.
He re-intimated that accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA protocols is imperative for us, as it has the potential to shape the economic future of our continent, strengthen our position in the global market, and uplift the lives of our people. Let us seize this moment with determination, collaboration, and innovation for Africa’s sustainable growth and development.
A food bazaar was held for the member states to showcase their culinary skills.