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AfCFTA, a Key Lever To Overcome Political Deadlocks That Halt The Continent’s Economic Integration

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Speech delivered by Dr. Evans DUAH

at the Regional Integration and AfCFTA Round Table Discussion with African Leaders organised by the reputable Think Thank, Imani Ghana,

at Kempinski Hotel, Accra - Ghana

This gives me such great pleasure to be in your midst today, to make a few remarks on the imperative recovery of Africa, focusing on regional and continental integration.

Our session zooms in on the AfCFTA, as a key lever to overcome political deadlocks that halt the continent’s economic integration.

"The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.” - Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

This quote by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, echoes the objectives of such pan-African Seminars. No single country gains as a stand-alone country. We consolidate the individual gains when we harness the diversity of our rich individual identities as a continent.

This wealth is seen in the strikingly diverse geography, language, culture, history, political developments, and resource endowments and this comes as no surprise when speaking of the continent which is the cradle of human civilisation. Shaped by a sense of a common destiny, with similar languages, cultural values of Ubuntu and heritage, as well as a common history of struggle against colonialism and liberation from external dominance and unity, Africa is a continent full of potential.

Yet, year after year, it seems we struggle to realise this potential. And why does it seem that Africa still struggles to write her own story? It is simply because one of our major challenges is the lack of agency.

For this reason, our leaders have continuously decided to prioritise inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance, and peace and security amongst other issues aimed at repositioning Africa as a dominant player in the global arena. Thus, recently such ideals inspired the African Union to come up with a 50-year plan (from 2013 to 2063), termed Agenda 2063. This agenda is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. The agenda comes with one of the most catchy and bold statements I admire, “The Africa, We Want.”.

The Africa we want is one where we actively take charge of Africa’s narrative and brand. This Africa should reflect the realities on the ground, the aspirations of African people, their priorities, and the continent’s position in the world. The Africa we want is:

  • One that has its economies being sufficiently transformed, moving away from being commodity based with weak value addition, poor manufacturing, and industrialisation, towards having the benefits of growth being shared widely coupled with job creation for the betterment of our youth and women

  • A key driver of her prosperity is its world-class capital developed through education that is high quality and focused on attaining 100 percent literacy and numeracy, with a clear emphasis on science, technology, and engineering, which has thus far been elusive.

  • With a seat at the table, assuming her rightful place in the assurance of global peace and security through permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council with all the privileges of permanent membership category and, based on a Common African Foreign Policy, a deepened south-south cooperation.

  • An African renaissance, transformation, and integration, based on changing our mindsets and attitudes in order to strengthen Pan-African values of self-reliance, solidarity, hard work, and collective prosperity, we want an Africa that can mobilise African resources to finance and expedite transformation and integration, putting in place in all fields and at all levels transformational leadership, ensuring capable developmental nations with the relevant institutions, policies, human resources, systems, and processes.

The AfCFTA emanating from Agenda 2063, is its flagship programme and a testament to the power of cooperation and a shared vision. The focus of the AfCFTA, therefore, seeks to deepen the economic integration of the African continent by creating a single continental market with free movement of business, people, and investments. For me, the AfCFTA is the bright spot, at a time when trade is facing incredible headwinds, and our options are falling further to the utility of regional integration processes. The African Continental Integration is no more an option, it is imperative.

In fact, the intra-regional trade currently, remains a small component of the overall African trade. According to African Development Bank (AfDB), trade across Africa’s internal markets represents a mere 15% of total trade, compared to 60% percent in Asia, 70% percent in the European Union, and 54% within the group represented by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. One of the key AfCFTA objectives is to build the continent’s internal market and double intra-African trade by 2022, an objective which is expected to be supported by the continental-wide customs union established under the Abuja Treaty.

If the AfCFTA succeeds in inspiring these reforms, the new free trade area could unleash forces for African dynamism and position the continent as a global competitor. These regional value chains could help integrate African economies into the global economy, whose manufacturing processes are driven increasingly by the globalisation of supply and value chains. Given the diversity of the African markets, economies, and structures, it is essential to proceed to a progressive and continuous harmonisation through the consolidation of legal, political, and institutional mechanisms. In that respect, the role of the RECs remains of primordial importance to sustain this integration process.

The particular example of the Arab Maghreb Union rightly illustrates this preponderance: the regional dispute on the Sahara hampers – to this date – effective cooperation between the Maghreb countries, and makes of this zone, which abounds with competencies, economic opportunities, and complementarities, the least integrated zone in Africa.

“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.” - Frederic Bastiat

These words by Bastiat and all the arguments expounded here today, leave us with more questions than answers, and this is the reason why such seminars are of high importance to propose strategies and actionable recommendations to contribute meaningfully to tackling policy implementation and challenges facing our continent.

In summary, we need to build an Africa, for Africans, and by Africans. I hope to leave here with such results. Thank you once again. It is a delight to be here.

Merci à Vous Tous!!!

Thank you all!!!

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