AfCFTA: AUC Chairperson calls on Member States to promote the image of a United Africa
H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) underscored the need for Africa to speak with one voice as African Union member states embark on implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He was speaking on 19 March 2018 during the opening of the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council at the Kigali Convention Center (KCC) in the presence of H.E. Thomas Kwesi Qwartey, Deputy Chairperson of the, the Commissioners and officials of the AU Commission, the representatives of the AU Organs, the RECs, and invited guests. The Executive Council is holding ahead of the Extraordinary Assembly of the AU on the AfCFTA scheduled to take place on 21 March 2018.
The AUC Chairperson commended the Ministers of Trade, Justice, negotiators and experts who have worked tirelessly for the completion of the African Continental Free Trade Area project. He also expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) whose collective work in collaboration with the AU Commission, has contributed to push the Pan-African included in report of the PRC meeting submitted for consideration and adoption by the Executive Council.
The establishment of the AfCFTA will result in a unified market of over 1,2 billion people with a combined gross product of over US$3 trillion, the AUC Chairperson said. He added that it would result in an increase in intra-African trade of 52 per cent by 2022 and culminate in substantial improvements of the lives of Africans.
Chairperson Faki underscored the importance of speeding up the integration process through the implementation of the AU flagship projects such as the AfCFA, the Single Market on Air Transport in Africa, the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport, as well as major regional and continental infrastructure projects as articulated in the Infrastructure Development Program (PIDA) in Africa.
“Everything has been said about the African Continental Free Trade Area, its crucial function in African integration, its economic spillover effect, the solidarity, of which it is the symbol against other blocs in a world where competition is fierce, its positive impact on the well-being of our peoples, the expected opening up of immense sources of jobs and the encouraging development prospects it offers to our youths,” said H.E. Mahamat. “Our industrial and agricultural exports will increase significantly”.
The AUC Chairperson further urged the Ministers of Foreign Affairs to exchange views and adopt a Common Position on the Cotonou Agreements so that the continent should speak with one voice during trade agreements with partners taking into account the concerns and interest of the African people. “During negotiations, we must prove our ability to act as a united bloc in defending the interests of our continent,” he emphasized.
Speaking earlier, H.E. Mrs. Louise Mushikiwabo, Chair of the Executive Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community of the Republic of Rwanda, welcomed the participants to the beautiful city of Kigali. She urged member states to sign and speed the ratification and implementation AfCFTA to enable us to build the Africa we want.
Minister Mushikiwabo highlighted that, as a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the AfCFTA is one of the key milestones, a critical initiative that has the ability to bring about the social and economic changes that Africa has been envisioning for decades. “I am therefore glad to see many of us reunited here to finally make this flagship project a reality,” she said.
The Chair of the Executive Council further noted that, with the adoption of the AfCFTA Agreement, it will then be important for all countries to sign it, so as to proceed with the speedy ratification and implementation of the AfCFTA.
“This Agreement must enter into force as soon as possible. By signing and ratifying it, we would signal to African people and the world that we are determined to play our part as a global player while promoting the continent’s economic interests as one, through a single market,” said H.E Mushikiwabo.
According to Minister Mushikiwabo, this agreement is not just a simple document, but it has critical economic implications for the African population as it will open up markets to 1.2 billion people, with the possibility of generating enormous wealth on the continent through accelerated investment, economic diversification and increased trade.
Addressing the diplomatic corps, Dr. Vera Songwe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), first acknowledged the hard work that went into crafting the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and echoed the considerable benefits this agreement has for the people of the continent.
She pointed out that the world is currently witnessing some new and quite extraordinary developments in the global economy. She said that “in the development world, there is a rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalisation. Although we are not the focus of these disputes, Africa will not remain untouched”.
“While we mark the important progress made, the road does not end here today, we must develop the national schedules for tariff reduction in trade in goods and for priority services; we must complete the annex on rules of origin, Above all, we must ensure that the agreement is ratified through our respective national processes.”
Dr. Songwe called on member states to sign, ratify and implement the AfCFTA to ensure the delivery of jobs and prosperity for African citizens. She reiterated that the ECA is ready to provide all the necessary support to the governments of Africa to make the AfCFTA a reality.
“Collectively – as policy makers, technical partners and the private sector – we can ensure that the AfCFTA is effectively implemented for the benefit of the whole of Africa,” she concluded.
The day-long meeting concluded with brief remarks from H.E. Louise Mushikiwabo, who further thanked the AU Commission and her peers for the good collaboration and working spirit during the deliberations. The report of the Executive council will be submitted for consideration and adoption to the Assembly on 21st March 2018 at the Kigali Conference center.