/ MEDIA STATEMENT / This content is not written by Creamer Media, but is a supplied media statement.
The first permanent secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was commissioned in Accra, Ghana, on August 18, with Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo and Africa Union (AU) Commission chairperson Moussa Mahamat reiterating the importance of the body to the continent’s economic transformation agenda.
“The economic integration of Africa will lay strong foundations for an Africa beyond aid. Africa’s new sense of urgency and aspiration of true self-reliance will be amply demonstrated by today’s ceremony,” said Akufo-Addo.
Mahamat, meanwhile, said the opening of the secretariat marked a milestone in the vision of Africa’s founders for continental integration.
AfCFTA secretary-general Wamkele Mene commented that the AfCFTA agreement offered an opportunity for Africa to confront significant trade and economic development challenges. These challenges include market fragmentation, small national economies, over-reliance on primary commodity exports, narrow export base, lack of export specialisation, under-developed regional value chains and high regulatory and tariff barriers to trade.
“We have to take action now. We have to take action to dismantle the colonial economic model that we inherited.”
AfCFTA, the world’s largest free trade area, has the potential to transform the continent with its potential market of 1.2-billion people and combined gross domestic product of about $3-trillion across the 54 member States of the AU.
Ghana was selected as the venue for the headquarters by African leaders during a summit of AU heads of States in Niamey in July 2019, to launch the implementation phase of the agreement, which is expected to spur regional trade among member countries.
Currently, 54 States have signed on to AfCFTA, out of which 28 have ratified the agreement.
Akufo-Addo appeals to member States that have not ratified the agreement to do so before the next AU Summit in December, to pave the way for the smooth commencement of trading from January 1, 2021, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA.
“The destruction of global supply chains has reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst us so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies and reduce our dependence on external sources.”
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group provided a $5-million institutional support grant to the AU towards the establishment of the AfCFTA secretariat which is located in an ultra-modern office complex in the central business district of the Ghanaian capital.
“The AfDB congratulates the AU/AfCFTA on the investiture of the secretariat hosted by Ghana. The bank is delighted to be associated with this ground-breaking, game-changing, transformational continental initiative in furtherance of the objective to create the Africa we want,” says AfDB private sector, infrastructure and industrialisation VP Solomon Quaynor.
“Our support to the AfCFTA is in keeping with the bank’s role of continental leadership in helping to build special-purpose vehicles that are critical to the successful implementation of crucial institutions to accelerate Africa’s economic development objectives,” Quaynor adds.
The event also featured virtual goodwill remarks from AU chairperson and South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa and Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou.