President Paul Kagame on Sunday completed his one-year tenure as the Chairperson of the African Union, handing over to his Egyptian counterpart, Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, at the 32nd Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Under President Kagame, the African Union made significant gains in many areas, especially on the integration agenda. Notable among the tremendous strides made over the last one year is the signing and subsequent national ratifications of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which could come into force in a few weeks time, creating the world’s largest trading bloc.
With 18 countries already having finalised their ratification process less than a year after the signing of the agreement in Kigali and now four more ratifications required for the treaty to come into force, it is safe to say that Africa is truly on the move if the political will demonstrated over the last one year can be sustained not only with regard to the AfCFTA but in other undertakings as well.
Once realised, the AfCFTA will herald a new dawn for Africa’s integration, tearing down trade barriers that have for long frustrated businesses and stifled growth across the continent.
There has also been major progress in other continental endeavours, including the operationalisation of the Peace Fund; reducing dependency on external partner funding of the African Union budget; creating a leaner, more effective structure for the Union; steps toward rollout of African digital ID; liberalising Africa airspace to remove restrictions for African airlines, famong others.
Indeed, the momentum witnessed on continental initiatives over the last one year is proof that the ‘Africa We Want’ blueprint – anchored on the Agenda 2063 – is not a pipedream, but rather a feasible and much-needed project.
But to deliver the future that Africa and her people badly need, African leaders must continue to build on the progress hitherto made with unwavering commitment, and steer the Union and member states in a way that consistently places the ordinary African at the heart of all efforts.