Continental Free Trade Area moves beyond rhetoric

Leaders of African Union member-states, including President Nana Akufo-Addo, at an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union signed onto a roadmap for the proposed Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Wednesday, March 22.

As part of this roadmap, various awareness-raising and private sector consultation activities will be carried out by the Afro Champions Initiative, which announced that it is committed through its members a US$1million budget for the outreach and advocacy campaign.

The Afro Champions Initiative is a public-private partnership designed to galvanise African resources and institutions to support the emergence and success of African private sector multinational champions in the regional spheres. The Initiative is co-chaired by President Thabo Mbeki and Mr. Aliko Dangote.

The Afro Champions Initiative therefore becomes an official platform of exchange between the African private sector and leaders of the African Union, and in particular its department in charge of Trade and Industry.

AU Chairman, President Paul Kagame said: “The task now is to ratify the Continental free Trade Area and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, so that they may come into force as soon as possible”. Kagame underscored the fact that some member-states require additional time for internal procedures and consultations, but we are hopeful that this long-cherished dream will finally come to fruition.

The milestone is testament to what is possible if we come together, and the leaders ought to be commended for their resolve to see an economically emancipated continent that pools its resources to achieve bigger and nobler goals.

Albert Muchanga, the AU Commissioner for Trade, noted that the African Union and the Afro Champions Initiative both share the same mission of Africa’s development – and we believe he couldn’t have stated it better.

Adding icing to the cake, the Afro Champions Initiative has also launched the AfricaPassportNow! Campaign – which consists of a citizens’ online petition for governments to speed up the creation of a unique passport accessible to every African. ‘Forward ever, backward never’ is the cry of millions of Africans who stand to benefit immensely from such initiatives.

CFTA has as its main objectives the creation of a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments; and paving the way for accelerating establishment of the Customs Union.