Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has assured Mr Wamkele Mene, first Secretary-General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), of Ghana’s support in the project’s operationalisation for Africa’s development.
“Our doors are widely opened to you,” Madam Ayorkor Botchwey stated on Monday at the commissioning and handing over of the AfCFTA Secretariat Building to the African Union Commission (AUC) in Accra.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo commissioned and handed over the AfCFTA Secretariat Building to Mr Moussa Faki, AUC Chairperson.
“Today is historic as we witness the realisation of one of the aspirations of the founding fathers of the Organisation of the African Union, now the African Union,” Madam Ayorkor Botchwey said.
“At its formation in 1963, part of the agenda of the OAU, as reflected in the preamble of its Charter, was for African countries to explore their full potentials in order to develop greater capacity to negotiate better deals with the outside world.”
She intimated that to achieve this objective, the Lagos Plan of Action was adopted by the Heads of State of the OAU in 1980, setting forth the idea of a continental free trade area.
She noted that undertaking led directly to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community in 1991; stating that “the journey to this point, for which we have gathered to celebrate, has indeed been long, rugged and arduous”.
She said the event taking place even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioning and handing over ceremony of the AfCFTA Secretariat, was a reflection of their strong collective resolve to push forward this African integration agenda.
She said undeniably, the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies and social lives make this event even more imperative.
She said: “The Africa we want has a shared framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development over the next 50 years”.
Madam Botchwey said agenda 2063 underscored the AfCFTA as one of the African Union’s flagship projects “to significantly accelerate growth of Intra-Africa trade and use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and sustainable development”.
She said specifically, its goal was to double intra-Africa trade by 2022, by addressing persistent challenges comprehensively and resolutely.
“This is the time for us to raise our ambitions even higher. This is not the time to sit back and watch,” she said.
“The Africa we desire and have worked for over the years is clearly visible on the horizon.”
She said this day ushers the continent of Africa onto the right stage to rapidly move towards achieving the other related flagship projects of Agenda 2063.
“We know that the road ahead will not be easy. It has not been easy all these decades, so we cannot expect anything different. Our belief must be in ourselves and in our collective abilities as Africans. Together, we can and will build the Africa we want.”
Mr Alan Kyerematen, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said the successful implementation of the AfCFTA would bring many benefits to the African continent.
He noted that it would increase the level of intra African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade within the African continent; declaring that it was estimated that intra African trade will increase by as much as 35 billion US dollars per annum or 52 per cent by 2022.
Mr Mene expressed his deep humility for having been elected by the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the AU, to the position of the first Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat.
“A mission to be at the services of Africa; which I shall undertake with resolute determination. Since the end of colonialism, the Republic of Ghana,” he said.
He said the AfCFTA offers Africa an opportunity to confront the significant trade and economic development challenges of their time with regards to market fragmentation, smallness of national economies, over reliance on the export of primary commodities and narrow export base, caused by shallow manufacturing capacity.
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