President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Monday, August 17, 2020, commissioned and formally handed over the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat building to the African Union Commission.
Ghana, on July 7, 2019, at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, in Niamey, capital of the Republic of Niger, was selected to host the AfCFTA) Secretariat.
In Niamey, President Akufo-Addo assured that Ghana, as a host of the AfCFTA Secretariat, would put all the requisite facilities at its disposal, so that it could run as a world-class organisation.
As part of the hosting agreement, Ghana was requested by the Assembly to work with the AU Commission to ensure an expeditious and efficient process of establishing a Permanent Secretariat for the AfCFTA in Accra.
“Ghana has fully discharged all her obligations and commitments agreed with the AU Commission,” President Akufo-Addo stated, adding, “we are, today, handing over a fully furnished and befitting office space, in a secured and easily accessible location within the business centre of Accra, as the Permanent Secretariat of the AfCFTA.”
The President said, “We have provided also an appropriate, furnished residential accommodation as the official residence of the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA.”
President Akufo-Addo said the AfCFTA is one of the most important decisions taken by the AU considering that, trade between African countries remained low.
Currently, trade among member countries constitutes some 16% of the combined GDP of the continent, compared to the European Union’s 75%.
“It is obvious that these very low levels of intra-regional trade constitute one of the defining characteristics of our continuing poverty,” the Ghanaian President indicated.
That, President Akufo-Addo indicated, had hindered the continent’s prospects of bringing prosperity to her peoples, adding, “a large part of the growth and prosperity that we seek on the continent will come from us trading more among ourselves.”
And as a result, the President said an effective implementation of the AfCFTA wOULD dispel that characterisation and the notion that the AU is not capable of executing its own decisions.
He appealed to the Member States, who are yet to ratify the AfCFTA Agreement, to take advantage of the postponement of the date for the start of trading, “and do so by December 2020, to enable us trade fully among ourselves, so we can harness the benefits of the AfCFTA together.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, President Akufo-Addo indicated, had heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA as the disruption of global supply chains had reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst member countries, “so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies, and reduce our dependence on external sources.”
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 member countries to trade among themselves in a more modern and sophisticated manner.
President Akufo-Addo congratulated and welcomed the first Secretary-General AfCFTA Secretariat, Wamkele Keabetswe Mene to Ghana and urged him to work towards building a strong, efficient and effective Secretariat.
He said the world is watching to see whether the AfCFTA Secretariat will provide a springboard for Africa’s economic integration and rapid growth.
“I am confident that under your tenure” President assured the AfCFTA Secretary-General, of Ghana’s support for him and the Secretariat succeed.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD