Africa looks forward to a defining moment ahead of the Heads of State meeting on Wednesday as leaders look forward to singing a critical initiative that has the ability to bring about the social and economic changes that Africa has been envisioning for decades.
Presiding over the Executive Council 18th Extraordinary Session of African Foreign Affairs Ministers, Rwanda’s Foreign guided an intense dialogue that went through a draft paper on the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), historic pact which has been nearly 40 years in the making.
This is Africa’s flagship project of Agenda 2063. “We have the choice to translate vast potential into concrete reality and each of us has to do our part,” Minister Mushikiwabo said in her opening remarks.
“We are well equipped to ensure a better future for future generations,” the Minister pleaded. Indeed, she said, “we should not forget either that this agreement plans to make Africa an attractive destination for inward and foreign investment.”
According to Mushikiwabo, this agreement is not just a simple document.
It has critical economic implications for African populations.
It will open up a market of 1.2 billion people, with the possibility of generating enormous wealth on the continent through accelerated investment, economic diversification and increased trade.
Prior to the Ministers’ session, several trade and justice meetings at both the technical and ministerial level have been held to consider and adopt the AfCFTA legal instruments.
Back and forth negotiations were also conducted. And a text to be signed by heads of states was finally agreed after consultations, reservations and recommendations were made.
“A few issues have been referred to us for consideration,” Mushikiwabo, who is also the chairperson of the Executive Council, said.
Dr. Vera Songwe, the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Council, said that this is the time for Africa to hold the bull by its horns.
“We must do so rapidly,” she said. “We must not lose the momentum…”
By Monday evening, the concerned Ministers agreed to and adopted the substance of AfCFTA legal instruments.
And it remains the duty of Foreign Ministers to provide political guidance on any outstanding matters. They had earlier been requested by Minister Mushikiwabo not to attempt debating trade and legal issues which are outside their competence. Afterall, technicians had already dug the dirt into the agreement paper.
“The entire package of legal texts encompassing the AfCTA Protocols and annexes, is a comprehensive instrument meant to help us build the “Africa we Want”,” Mushikiwabo said.
This Agreement must enter into force as soon as possible.
By signing and ratifying it, Africa will finally send a signal that it is determined to play part as a global player while promoting the continent’s economic interests as one, through a single African market.
“Therefore, our greater aim should be to fast-track approval and implementation of all flagship projects,” Mushikiwabo said.
About the AfCFTA
The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
The AfCFTA by the Numbers
● 55 countries
● More than 1.2 billion people
● Over US$2.5 trillion in total GDP
● 52% ($35 billion) increase in intra-African trade by 2022
● 6% increase in African exports