The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) has selected Ghana as the host country for the Secretariat of the African Continental (AfCFTA) Free Trade Area.
The decision was announced on Sunday, 7th July, 2019, at the 12th AU Extraordinary Summit held in Niamey, the capital of Niger, after Ghana beat off competition from Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal.
The core mandate of the Secretariat will be to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which has since been ratified by 25 member states.
In his acceptance speech, during the close session of the Summit, the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, thanked the Assembly for the decision, stating that “it is a privilege that, for the first time in our nation’s history, we have the responsibility of hosting an important pan-African institution”.
President Akufo-Addo expressed his gratitude to President Macky Sall of Senegal for stepping down Senegal’s candidature in favour of Ghana, and also showed his appreciation to the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia, their Excellencies Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Abiy Ahmed respectively, for similar gestures of solidarity.
Whilst applauding the member states that have deposited their instruments of ratification at the AU Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, the President expressed his delight at the decision taken by Nigeria to sign up to the Agreement, stressing that “the adhesion of Nigeria to the Free Trade Area has enhanced considerably its prospects of success”.
With the AfCFTA now the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, it will cover a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across the fifty-four (54) Member States of the African Union that have signed up to the Agreement.
“We have, today, taken very important steps towards working with a common voice and a common purpose to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of our great continent for the benefit of all our peoples. Indeed, the ‘Africa We Want’ is achievable,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo assured his colleague Heads of State that Ghana will put all the requisite facilities at the disposal of the Secretariat so that it can run as a world-class organisation.
In addition, and pursuant to the Statutes of the AU Commission, he indicated that the Secretariat shall enjoy the privileges and immunities stipulated in the OAU General Convention on Privileges and Immunities, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities, and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the Vienna Convention between States and International Organisations or between International Organisations.
The President urged Assembly to direct the AU Commission to prepare and execute a host-country agreement in accordance with the Executive Council Decision EX.CL/195 (VII) Rev.1 of July 2005 on hosting AU Organs; and hold consultations with Ghana and key stakeholders to prepare the statutes of the AfCFTA Secretariat with a view toward providing a report for the consideration of the Council of Ministers of Trade.
“Ghana is ready to donate US$10 million to the African Union to support the operationalisation of the Secretariat. I have set up an inter-Ministerial Committee of my government to work with the AU Commission towards this end,” he indicated.
President Akufo-Addo also called on pan-African institutions such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, the African Export-Import Bank and other key stakeholders, including friends of Africa, to provide such support as they can towards the establishment of the Secretariat.
“I am determined to do whatever I can to guarantee the smooth take-off of the Secretariat, and help make sure that it turns out to be a world-class institution, which will become the pride and joy of all Africans,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo added, “We owe it to generations unborn to ensure that the biggest trading bloc on the globe, whose outcomes will be rewarding to all, and which will assist in attaining the “Africa We Want”, does not falter.”