AU extraordinary Summit initials African free trade area deal in Kigali

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) – Africa’s embarkation on free trade and free movement promises prosperity for all Africans, as the continent is now set to prioritise the production of value-added goods and services that are “Made in Africa”, Rwandan President Paul Kagame stated on Wednesday as African leaders converged on his country’s capital to initial the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The event was the Tenth Extra Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, attended by several Heads of State and Government, among them President Cyril Ramaphosa who took part in the Summit for the first time as leader of South Africa.

“This is not just a signing ceremony. Today’s deliberations are critically important as we chart the next steps on our journey towards the Africa we want,” President Kagame remarked in his opening address to the Summit on AfCFTA.

“What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs, particularly women and youth,” he said. “The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world, and that is a good thing.”

With the continental free trade area in operation, Kagame explained that African countries will be in a better position to leverage their growing strength and unity to secure Africa’s rightful interests in the international arena.

The one-day Summit’s agenda was to adopt the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, and the Kigali Declaration, which expresses the AU Member States unity in moving the continent forward.

President Kagame commended President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger for leading the Continental Free Trade Area process.

He said the establishment of the  AfCFTA was the culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by Heads of State in 1980. That undertaking led directly to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community in 1991.

Meanwhile, the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, drew the attention of the Summit to the fact that “the world is changing, and changing at a great speed. International competition is fierce. It leaves no room for the weak.”

“Economic integration thus responds not only to aspirations born out of Pan-Africanism, but also to a practical imperative linked to the economic viability of the continent,” said Mahamat, urging the AU leaders “to fulfil the aspiration of our peoples for integration and unity.”

He called on the Summit to strengthen the confidence of the African peoples in their Union and its ability to fulfil their aspirations. “It must confound those who, outside Africa, continue to think, with barely concealed condescension, that our decisions will never materialize,” he said.

The AUC chief pointed out that it was obvious that in a process as complicated as this one, compromise is a principle with which everyone must be imbued.

“Beyond the debates about what some countries might gain or lose in the short term, the truth, statistically established, is that each of our Member States and the continent as a whole will benefit immensely from the establishment of the Free Trade Area,” he stressed.

“Africa today has the opportunity to transform its potential into reality and translate into deeds the aspirations contained in [the AU] Agenda 2063,” Mahamat said, cautioning that the present time was no longer for hesitation.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 21March2018

21 march 2018 14:31:44

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