Successful Ghanaian diplomacy enabled the African Union (AU) to agree to the location in Accra of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said.
Mr Akufo-Ado noted that the AfCfTA is arguably the most important initiative of the AU since its foundation.
The AfCFTA is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing as of 1 January 2021.It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization. Accra, Ghana serves as the Secretariat of AfCFTA and was commissioned and handed over to the AU by Mr Akufo-Addo on August 17, 2020 in Accra.
The general objectives of the agreement are to create a single market, deepening the economic integration of the continent; establish a liberalised market through multiple rounds of negotiations; aid the movement of capital and people, facilitating investment; move towards the establishment of a future continental customs union.
The others are to achieve sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development, gender equality and structural transformations within member states; enhance competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market; encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security and resolve challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships
Speaking during Ghana’s 64th Independence Day celebration on Saturday March 6, Mr Akufo-Addo said “Since 2017, a considerable amount of work has been undertaken to help us achieve this objective. Consistently for three successive years, our nation had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, leading to us becoming the largest destination of foreign direct investment in West Africa; global automobile companies had either setup shop in Ghana, or had expressed their desire to do so; the basic tenets of social justice, i.e. access to education and healthcare, were being guaranteed for all our people; we had become self-sufficient in food production, and, for the first time in a long while, exported our surpluses to our neighbours; sustained efforts, through digitisation, were being made to formalise our economy; and we had hastened our critical journey of industrialisation and value-addition activities, whose end result would be to create jobs for the teeming masses of Ghanaians.
“Successful Ghanaian diplomacy enabled the African Union to agree to the location here in Accra of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), arguably the most important initiative of the AU since its foundation.
“This is the first time since independence that we have had the privilege of playing host to a major pan-African institution. The single African market, which begun trading on 1st January, will present Ghanaian enterprises and businesses with a huge opportunity for the rapid development of the Ghanaian and African economy.
“When the global pandemic of COVID-19 struck, it derailed our progress, and wreaked havoc on all aspects of national life. Lives and livelihoods have been affected, the economy has suffered, and Government has had to cushion households and businesses from the effects of the virus. If any more evidence were needed of the impact of COVID-19, the fact that this, the 64th Independence Day Celebration, has had to be cancelled, and substituted with, essentially, a virtual celebration, is one of them.
“Collectively, my fellow Ghanaians, we all worked to ensure a relatively favourable situation with respect to the virus when it first broke out. In as much as our active case count has recently risen, I appeal to all of you to help ensure its decline. We did that before, and we can do it again. Yes, the first vaccines have arrived in the country, and they have begun to be deployed, and I appeal passionately to each one of you to take the vaccine when it is your turn.
“But, however, we cannot afford to let go of the enhanced hygiene and mask wearing protocols, which should define our way of living. These protocols have not only helped in the fight against COVID-19, but have also helped ensure that cholera, for example, is no longer a health concern.
“If we are to be successful in building a resilient Ghana, capable of withstanding, in future, external shocks, such as COVID-19, then we must all put our shoulders to the wheel. Already, Government has taken steps to revitalise and transform the economy, a process which is hinged on the one hundred-billion-cedi Ghana CARES ‘Obaatampa’ Programme, the lynchpin of our drive towards the rapid industrial transformation of our economy, our main national priority. The Minister for Finance will this month, God willing, provide to Parliament further details on the measures to be taken to spur on the process of economic recovery.”