We cannot defer plans on AfCFTA – Ayorkor Botchwey urges African leaders

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has underscored the need for Ghana and other African countries to work towards the operationalisation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenting a statement on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday, May 26 to mark the occasion of Africa Day, she maintained that: “We must move ahead with the most ambitious steps toward pan-African integration with the creation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area ensuring it is operationalised as soon as possible”

The 2020 Africa Day has been marked in the shadows of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has swept across the world. Even in the era of a challenging pandemic, Africa remains confident and dynamic in the pursuit of its aspirations for a better future for its citizens, Ayorkor Botchwey noted.

Implementation of the free trade agreement is expected to commence on July 1 this year, however, due to the disruptions occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, analysts have suggested it be deferred to next year.

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, COVID-19 presents another major test of the resolve of the African Union and its member states to grow intra-Africa trade.

“While dealing with the pandemic and saving lives, Africa cannot defer urgent action on plans and programmes that will advance continental trade and development.

Ghana was selected to host the secretariat of AfCFTA, giving the country a pivotal role in overseeing the implementation of the agreement. The country has committed US$10m for the operationalisation of the secretariat.

AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3bn people in a US$2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.

The main objectives of AfCFTA are to create a continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and capital, and pave the way for creating a customs union.

It will also grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent. AfCFTA is further expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access, and better reallocation of resources.

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