South African President Cyril Ramaphosa summed it all up in a few words: “The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) deal is not about South Africa or any other individual country. It is about the continent called Africa”.
The run-up to the signing of the historic deal has severely put countries’ commitment to CFTA to test. Many hide behind the façade of “sovereignty” to ransom the continent. When President Kagame says that African countries seem to enjoy problems yet they have solutions at hand, it should make people to keep the midnight candle burning; it should ignite Africans to change course.
Linking markets does not interfere with one’s sovereignty, it rather boosts it because larger markets means more financial gains that in the end will put an end to the dependence virus that seems to be Africa’s constant companion. Free trade is the antidote.
Right now there is no financial sovereignty where convertibility of currencies is concerned. If one cannot take Rwandan francs and exchange them for goods in neighbouring Tanzania or Uganda – who will insist on Dollars or Euros – what kind of sovereignty are we talking about?
Trade in goods and services have been the main stay of most developed countries. Why can’t Africa just look across the seas towards the European Union? None of the richest economies there lost their sovereignty, neither did the most impoverished. Instead, they shared prosperity because they worked in unison and came out stronger.
Today, the African leaders meeting in Kigali have the future of the continent’s prosperity in their hands. They hold the key as to whether Africa will cease being a pauper state, forever with a begging bowl in hand, or whether they can grab the tiger by the tail and move the continent forward – without coming up with all sorts of lame excuses. And to paraphrase one delegate’s words; “you can eat from free trade, you cannot eat sovereignty”.