AUC chief urges unity of action in creation of African free trade bloc

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) – Member countries of the African Union (AU) must prove their ability to act as a united bloc in defending the interests of their continent, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat told the organisation’s Executive Council meeting here on Monday to make final touches to the treaty establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

After creation of the free trade area, Mr. Mahamat said, Africa’s potentialities “will finally benefit our peoples, who are desperately waiting for their lives to improve tangibly and substantially.”

Besides its crucial function in African integration, the AfCFTA is expected to induce an increase in intra-African trade of 52 per cent by 2022 and allow industrial and agricultural exports to increase significantly. It will also open up immense sources of jobs and the encourage development prospects for youths.

“The international context, marked by a worrisome weakening of multilateralism and the principles of solidarity among peoples in the name of our common humanity, make the execution of this flagship project crucial,” Mr. Mahamat noted.

“At a time when the rest of the world is coming together and consolidating itself in the resolute defence of its strategic interests, we have no choice but to forge ahead.

“We must overcome our fears, our national constraints, however legitimate they may be and the barriers that may arise from overly restrictive interpretations of our sovereignty. We must project to the face of the world the image of a united Africa,” he emphasized.

The Chairperson urged the AU member countries to sign the treaty establishing the AfCFTA in large numbers, ratify it urgently and implement it scrupulously.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Vera Songwe told the same meeting that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will bring Africa into the global trade space, as one continent and not as many countries.
“We are at that point, where we are deciding that we are stronger if we trade together. And in trading together, we will ensure that some of the conflicts that abide and afflict our continent today will be abated,” she said.

Extolling the AfCFTA as a tremendous opportunity for businesses, the UNECA chief said:  “One of the biggest challenges we face in Africa is in leveraging the tremendous latent resources of our large and growing youth population.

“All too frequently our youth are left under-employed in jobs that do not make the most of their potential. Yet our exports to countries outside the continent are dominated by capital-intensive goods, and especially petroleum fuels and extracted minerals. These produce little in the way of employment for the continent.”

Songwe drew the Council’s attention to the fact that the AfCFTA also promises important benefits for women of the continent.

“Over two-thirds of informal cross-border traders in this continent are women. These women currently face considerable challenges and risks, harassment and abuse, because they operate principally through informal networks,” she said.

“The AfCFTA will simplify the cross-border trading regime and create a better environment for women traders in Africa. It will also enhance domestic resource mobilization, because as we trade more with each other, we can equally ensure that our current accounts improve and our revenues are increased, as we transform these informal female traders into bona fide real private sector elements of our society that contribute their share to the Government’s coffers and also benefit from the structures that are put to ensure that trade is free and fluid. “
-0- PANA AR 19March2018

19 march 2018 19:41:45

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