AfDB grants $5 million to AU for AfCFTA permanent secretariat

AfDB grants $5 million to AU for AfCFTA permanent secretariatThe African Development Bank Group (AfDB), said it provided a $5 million institutional support grant to the African Union (AU), to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, in Accra, Ghana.

The Bank’s Vice-President, Private Sector, Infrastructure, and Industrialization, Solomon Quaynor, said the bank was delighted to be associated with the game-changing and transformational continental initiative in furtherance of the objective to create a resilient Africa.

Speaking during the inauguration of the AfCFTA permanent secretariat, Quaynor said the Bank’s support was in line with its role of continental leadership in helping to build special-purpose vehicles that are critical to the successful implementation of crucial institutions to accelerate Africa’s economic development objectives.

Commenting, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said the continent’s economic integration would lay strong foundations for an Africa beyond aid, as the new sense of urgency and aspiration of true self-reliance would be strengthened by the launch of the Secretariat.

He appealed to member states that have not ratified their agreement to AfCFTA to do so before the next AU summit in December, saying it would pave the way for the smooth commencement of trading from January 1, 2021.

Akufo-Addo said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA. The destruction of global supply chains has reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst us so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies, and reduce our dependence on external sources.”

In his remarks, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, reiterated the importance of the body to Africa’s economic transformation agenda.

According to him, AfCFTA, the world’s largest free trade area, has the potential to transform the continent with its potential market of 1.2 billion people and combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around $3 trillion across the 54-member states of the AU.

Mahamat said the opening of the secretariat marked a milestone in the vision of Africa’s founding founders for continental integration.

Also speaking, First Secretary-General, AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, said: “the agreement offered an opportunity for Africa to confront the significant trade and economic development challenges, market fragmentation, over-reliance on primary commodity exports, narrow export base, lack of export specialization, under-developed regional value chains, and high regulatory and tariff barriers to trade.

“We have to take action now. We have to take action to dismantle the colonial economic model that we inherited,” Mene said.

Ghana was selected as the headquarters by African leaders during a Summit of AU Heads of States in Niamey, Niger, in July 2019, to launch the implementation phase of the agreement. Currently, 54 states have signed on to AfCFTA, out of which 28 have ratified.

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