18th May 2024

President Akufo-Addo presents key to Secretary-General of the Secretariat, Wamkele Keabetswe Mene

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has noted that an effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will not only put Africa in good light, but also dispel the misconception that the African Union (AU) is not capable of executing its own decisions.


Speaking at the ceremony to officially commission and hand over the AfCFTA Secretariat yesterday in Accra, President Nana Akufo-Addo said the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA.

He said the commissioning and handing over of the AfCFTA Secretariat to the AU Commission is therefore evidence of the continent’s aim of achieving true self-reliance.


It is in this direction that he urged other African countries which are yet to ratify the agreement to do so by taking advantage of the rescheduled date for the commencement of trading.

“The disruption of global supply chains has reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst us, so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies, and reduce our dependence on external sources. We are now the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, and we must make it count,” he said.


He added: “Covering a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of $3 trillion, across the 54 Member States of the AU that have signed up to the Agreement, it will provide the vehicle for us to trade among ourselves in a more modern and sophisticated manner; it will offer a huge opportunity to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of our great continent for the benefit of all our people; and it will give us protection in how to deal with other trading blocks.”

The President said he has no doubt that the coming into being of the African Continental Free Trade Area is one of the most important decisions taken by the AU.




He therefore urged member states to put in extra efforts to conclude all outstanding implementation issues for adoption by the AU Assembly in the next Extraordinary Summit scheduled for December 2020 to pave the way for the smooth commencement of trading from January 1, 2021.

President Akufo-Addo further urged first elected Secretary-General of the Secretariat to work towards building a strong, efficient and effective Secretariat, capable of implementing the various trade rules, in line with the text of the Agreement, to help build credibility, and reduce trade policy uncertainty in the continent.


“The world is watching to see whether the Secretariat will, indeed, provide the springboard for Africa’s economic integration and rapid growth, and I am confident that, under your tenure, it will,” he said.




In a speech read for him, the AU Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, noted the achievement made so far in the implementation of the Niamey Decision of July 2019, as well as the challenges that still exist in the negotiations at the moment, in particular, around the issue of rules of origin and trade offers and trade in services.

“We are confident that, through your leadership and the determination of the AU Member States, all bracketed issues should be resolved,” he said.


According to him, the AU remain concerned about the impact of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus on the continent, which has resulted in thousands of fatalities at a time when prospects for many African countries were promising.


“At the beginning of 2020, Africa was on track to continue its economic expansion, with growth projected to rise from 2.9 per cent in 2019 to 3.2 per cent in 2020, and 3.5 per cent in 2021. It is also equally important to state that important gains are being registered in poverty reduction and health indicators. We are witnessing unprecedented embracing of technology and innovation across the Continent, with young Africans acting as early adopters of new platforms, such as mobile money,” he said.


Economic growth


Taking his turn, the newly elected first Secretary-General of the Secretariat, Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, pointed out that even though much progress has been made, it is certain that there will be implementation related challenges ahead and for which reasons member states should brace up.

Secretary-General Wamkele Keabetswe Mene displays the key to the Secretariat

He noted that substantial domestic policy reforms and alignment of national legislation with the AfCFTA shall be required in order to reduce barriers to intra-Africa trade.


“Trans-shipment of goods from third countries that are outside of the AfCFTA zone will be a significant risk. The AfCFTA Secretariat will work closely with customs authorities to ensure that through robust implementation of the AfCFTA rules of origin regime, the prevention of trans-shipment is an absolute priority,” Mr Wamkele Mene said.


He assured to remain committed to ensuring that the AfCFTA is effectively implemented such that there is shared and inclusive economic growth on the continent.









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