…. lauds Ghana’s role in the continental trade initiative
The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Mr. Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, has lauded Ghana’s role in the coming into being of the continental trade initiative.
He, therefore, noted that it is a testament to the country’s longstanding principle of Pan-Africanism.
Mr. Keabetswe Mene stressed that the country has always been at the forefront of ‘African struggles’, making significant contributions to the course of the continent’s development.
He further added that the next step for the continent would be to see “economic liberalisation to make sure that Africa completes the vision of a free continent – a free Africa, and an integrated market, which is a very important objective to achieve.”
The head of the AfCFTA Secretariat was at the Manhyia Palace for the first time since taking office, and in his interaction with the press after he had called on the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, he said the purpose of the visit was to brief the Asantehene on operations of AfCFTA and its importance for the region and African continent.
He said the occasion also enabled him to discuss with the Asantehene some of the anticipated challenges as AfCFTA takes off.
According to him, Ghana has already started trading under AfCFTA rules – with a shipment to South Africa on January 4, 2020; while other member-countries have indicated being ready with their Customs procedures.
“We expect that when we look back 10 years from now, we as Africans, 1st January 2021 will be a significant milestone. Market integration is not easy; regional integration is not easy. This takes many years, but you’ve got to start from somewhere.”
He acknowledged that there is still some work to be done “but there is no regional integration agenda that is done overnight. It takes time,” he added
He, therefore, urged all member-countries to ‘come to the table’ in order to ensure that continental integration is achieved.
Impact of COVID-19 on AfCFTA
The Secretary-General of AfCFTA also indicated that the outbreak of COVID-19 has adversely affected their operations.
He said the heads of state had directed trading to commence on July 1, 2020; however, around that time “out of 55 countries, 42 countries were in a full or partial lockdown; borders were closed, goods were not transiting through borders, governments were focused on fighting the pandemic”.
This development, he disclosed, caused a loss of 9 or10 months’ worth of work which “we are now trying to catch up on.” In this regard, he said a number of meetings have already been done with African Ministers of Trade, among others, in an effort to make up for the lost time.
According to him, the biggest impact is on Africa’s economy. He insisted that: “This is why it is so important we implement this agreement as quickly as possible so that we reverse some of the economic damage that has been caused by the pandemic.”