“The Continental Free Trade Area is the lifeblood of our continent’s integration and prosperity. It will also be the primary portal through which Africa engages with its partners around the world on trade and investment. We must therefore work together continuously to protect and strengthen this pact for the sake of the generations that follow us.”
Kagame made the remarks on Saturday as he participated in the 13th Extraordinary Sessions of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) which took place virtually.
The 13th Extraordinary AU Summit began on the morning of 05th December 2020 to finalise the instruments of African Continental Free Trade Area so that trading may commence on 1st January 2021. After the opening ceremony with statements by the Chairperson of the AU, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Wamkele Mene, participants moved into closed session.
President Kagame made a statement during the closed session stressing the importance of the AfCFTA to Africa’s integration and prosperity agenda.
He congratulated the African Ministers of Trade, the African Union Commission, and the new AfCFTA Secretariat for successfully overseeing the technical negotiations.
“I wish to congratulate the African Ministers of Trade, African Union Commission and the new AfCFTA secretariat for successfully overseeing the technical negotiations. The remaining negotiations should be completed as soon as possible in order to maximize the benefits of higher trade volumes for all of us,” he said.
Kagame stressed that the African Continental Free Trade Area will always be associated with the name of President Mamadou Yusuf of Niger ‘who has led this process on behalf of the assembly’ and thanked him for outstanding contributions.
Among others, Kagame observed that it is a collective achievement which could not have happened without the strong support of the African heads of state and Government who have remained steadfast throughout the journey.
He noted that such level of commitment ‘will continue to be necessary to sustain the agreement and make it successful’.
A World Bank report released in December 2019 on the AfCFTA showed that the common market would benefit the African continent in different ways.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement which was signed by 44 African countries on March 21st, 2018 in Kigali shows that a single market for goods and services across Africa will lead to poverty reduction. At least 30 million Africans (1.5% of Africans) will rise above the poverty line.
The report shows that 12 million people in West Africa, 9.3 million in Central Africa and 4.8 million in East Africa will rise above the poverty line. The AfCFTA has the potential of lifting 67.9 million Africans (3.6% of Africans) to middle income status by 2035. That is a $5.50 income per day.
The AfCFTA will connect 1.3 billion African citizens from 54 countries and is expected to generate $3.4 trillion annually. This trade bloc will improve Intra-African trade and definitely solve the problem of food import in Africa.
The Continental Free Trade Area was expected to start operating on July 1st, 2020 but was delayed due to Covid pandemic. The starting date has been extended to 1st January 2021.