The African Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA) should be shaped and implemented to enable Africa to create opportunities for its citizens; spur the continent’s industrialization agenda; and ensure inclusive growth, says Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.
Speaking at the just-ended 51st session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Addis Ababa, Mr. Ahmed said with the AfCFTA, Africa’s economic integration was inevitable.
“Together we will grow; together we will give our young people a stake in the future of our continent. We will harness their energy and creativity for collective wellbeing,” the Prime Minister said, adding; “We need to also increasingly engage the private sector in ensuring economic integration and introduce aggressive policies to broaden women’s access to economic opportunities.”
He said governments on the continent were looking up to their finance ministers and Central Bank Governors for leadership that will ensure that trade was not an end in itself but the means to advance the wellbeing of Africans.
Mr. Ahmed said Ethiopia was fully aware of the opportunities that the free trade agreement offered and was ready to “follow Rwanda and Ghana for their pioneering role in the ratification of the AfCFTA”.
He urged other African countries to sign-up to the AfCFTA and those that have already done so, to ratify quickly so the agreement can soon come into force. At least 44 countries signed up to the agreement that will bring together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$2 trillion.
By creating a single continental market for goods and services, the continent hopes to boost trade between African countries.
ECA at 60
Mr. Ahmed took the opportunity to wish the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) happy anniversary as the organization celebrates 60 years of existence this year.
“The ECA has indeed been at the forefront of cutting-edge policy research, thought leadership, and advice since day one,” he said.
“In fact, it has been our very own in-house think tank that helped us champion our continental aspirations with the zeal of a missionary. However, in the spirit of African unity, the ECA did not walk alone. There was also the Organisation of African Unity, now that African Union.”
He continued: “As we all know, every anniversary involves a critical and reflective engagement with the past, the present and the future. It is with this sense of purpose that we should reflect on milestones achieved throughout the years to ensure we apply lessons learned and design a better ECA together.”
Mr. Ahmed challenged African leaders to imagine the Africa they would create if they managed to silence all the guns; empowered their communities and built stronger institutions.
“Imagine if we don’t invest all our resources to kill each other,” he said.
“On this anniversary, ECA shall look back with pride and look forward with hope. ECA shall marshal all its resources to support the AfCFTA. ECA has been with us for 60 years and I’m confident it will be there for Africa’s next phase of development,” the Prime Minister added.
The meeting was held under the theme; ‘African Continental Free Trade Area: Creating Fiscal Space for Jobs and Economic Diversification’ and was attended by Africa’s finance, economic and planning ministers as well as Central Bank Governors.