Addis Ababa, December 6/2020( ENA) African leaders on Saturday have approved trading to start on 1st January 2021 under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as scheduled agreed earlier.
The leaders requested African financial institutions to provide technical and financial support for its implementation.
In a declaration at the end of their 13th extraordinary summit of the member-states held virtually on Saturday, the leaders said “we call on women, youth, businesses, trade unions, civil society, cross border traders, the academia, the African Diaspora and other stakeholders to join us as governments in this historic endeavor of creating the Africa we want in line with the African Union Agenda 2063.”
Commending the contribution of the African Ministers of Trade for the preparations toward the launch of trading on January 1, 2021, the leaders reaffirmed their resolve to deepen continental integration through the AfCFTA.
Speaking on the occasion, the African Union Chairperson and South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa said the start of trading would be one of the “most significant milestones” in the continental integration project and the clearest affirmation yet that Africa is determined to take charge of its own destiny.
He described the AfCFTA as the great edifice that holds Africa’s collective dreams and aspirations for an integrated and prosperous continent.
The AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade, promote industrialization and competitiveness, contribute to job creation, unleash regional value chains and facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy, he noted.
AfCFTA should be used to advance the empowerment of Africa’s women improve their access to trade opportunities, facilitate their economic freedom and expand the productive capacity of countries, he stated.
He called on the AU to consider a Protocol on Women in Trade to facilitate greater trade opportunities for women and focus on removing non-tariff barriers to trade.
He further expressed gratitude to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) for providing technical support to the continental initiative.
The Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene pledged to work with the ECA and the UN development Programme to prepare the AU Protocol on Women in Trade.
Mene said that women, young Africans and SMEs have to be at the heart of its implementation for AfCFTA to be inclusive and to ensure shared growth across the continent.
He added that the AU Protocol on Women in Trade will build upon the AfCFTA Framework Agreement that recognizes gender equality as an explicit objective.
The Director of ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, Stephen Karingi said “the inclusion of health and education among the priority services sectors for liberalization under the AfCFTA in the light of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic have received a boost from the AfCFTA Champion, President Issoufou of Niger.”
“We remain committed to working with the African Union and partners in achieving Africa’s integration agenda and in so doing, accelerating the implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want,” he added.