President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged the Federal Republic of Nigeria to give its assent to the Continental Free Trade Area, Africa’s single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “Nigeria, with her dynamic population, sense of enterprise of her people, and the size of her economy, is an automatic leader of any regional or continental market. She has nothing to be afraid of, but, on the contrary should be the major beneficiary of any such market.”
Speaking at the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, the President noted that Africa’s small countries will continue to struggle if they go it alone.
The accelerated economic integration of committed nations, he said, will breathe new life into the African Union, and deliver the benefits of African integration to the doorsteps of the African peoples.
“Hence, the critical importance of the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which has been signed by a majority of countries on the continent, but ratified only by a handful, including Ghana. It is imperative that the 22-minimum number of country ratifications, required to bring it into effect, be met as soon as possible,” he added.
A major deficit of our economic development, President Akufo-Addo explained, has been the low level of intra-Africa trade that has characterized the performance of African economies up till now.
In 2000, intra-regional trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015.
“I believe it is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to operationalize the African Common Market. It is my fervent hope that Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, will very soon assent to this Agreement,” he said.
With West Africa’s current population of 350 million set to reach a population of 500 million in 20 years, and likewise Africa’s set to increase from 1.2 million to 2 billion people in 20 years, the President noted that “genuine regional and continental markets in Africa should be in the mutual interests of Ghana and Nigeria.”
These markets, the President stressed, “will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our peoples with hard work, creativity and enterprise.”
The success of the Continental Free Trade Area, in President Akufo-Addo’s view, is a function of the peace and security of the continent.
“All right-thinking persons must support the efforts that are being made to tackle the menace of terrorism, such as Boko Haram and the Jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel. It is a collective struggle for civilized governance that must engage us all,” he urged.
Adopt Free SHS
Touching on education, President Akufo-Addo urged African leaders to start investing in their children and young people as the surest way to guarantee a prosperous future.
He explained that in September 2017, he launched the Free Senior High School policy in Ghana, which is meant to ensure that all Ghanaian children attain a minimum of senior high school education.
“In the first year of its implementation, ninety thousand (90,000) more Ghanaian children gained access to Senior High School in 2017 than in 2016. It is anticipated that in September this year, one hundred and eighty thousand (180,000) more children will be admitted into senior high school,” he said.
The President continued, “We want to make sure that every Ghanaian child, no matter the circumstances of their birth, no matter where they are born, are not denied an education. This is the only way we can create an educated workforce to accelerate the process of development.”
Whilst hesitating to prescribe policy initiatives for other countries, President Akufo-Addo noted that “I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending that all African countries adopt the policy of free compulsory education from kindergarten to senior high school.”
This, he added, “is one of the most important things we have to do if we are to make the transformation from our current state to prosperity.”