A free trade area is in the interest of all – African leaders say

The expression of reservation by some countries to assent to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is very unfortunate and regrettable, different African leaders have said.
Delegates follow a panel discussion at the business forum
Delegates follow a panel discussion at the business forum

The expression of reservation by some countries to assent to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is very unfortunate and regrettable, different African leaders have said.

The leaders say that it is regrettable that some countries have waited for the eleventh hour towards the signing of the agreement to express concerns and reservation.

The agreement, which is slated to be signed in Kigali tomorrow, has been under negotiations for about 30 months.

The initiative was championed by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, who is already Kigali to witness the signing.

Speaking at the ongoing African Business summit Tuesday morning, Special Envoy of African Union Peace Fund, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, said that it is unfortunate that some African countries have waited until close to the signing to start talking about their reservations to the AfCFTA.

He said that the document was very elaborate and that there are safeguards in place to address all the concerns that are being raised by those that have on the last minute expressed reluctance to sign the agreement.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo who attributed the lack of adequate information about the benefits of the agreement to the reluctance of some countries towards the free trade agreement.

“I am very surprised that there is an African leader who is not supporting the agreement,” he said adding that not supporting the initiative was “criminal”.

Foreign Affairs Ministers from across the continent are working to address three remaining contentious issues in the draft.

Among the top contentious issues in the 250-page document include the fate of the AfCFTA secretariat after signing of the agreement, admissibility of reservations as well as minimum number of ratifications required to put it to effect.

Speaking at a panel discussion, Ali Mufuruki, a Tanzanian businessman, dismissed concerns on the sovereignty which some countries are afraid they will cede once they sign up for the free trade area saying: “You can eat from free trade, but you can’t eat from sovereignty.”

Two panel discussions were held as part of the business summit held under the theme: leveraging the power of business to drive Africa’s integration.

Among the panel discussions held in the morning was one that had Presidents Paul Kagame and Issoufou, Moussa Faki Mahamat , the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Zimbabwean business magnate Strive Masiyiwa – whose company Econet has footprint in 29 countries and Dr Vera Songwe, the Executive Director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Another panel had Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Donald Kaberuka, African Union High Representative for the Peace Fund, Ali Mufuruki, Chairman and CEO, Infotech Investment Group of Tanzania, Tonye Cole, Co-founder and Group Executive Director of Sahara Group, Nigeria and Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, President, General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises.

 

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