The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo, has handed over the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area to the African Union Commission ahead of the Implementation of the Continental Trade Agreement.
Ghana won the bid to host the Secretariat of the AfCFTA in July 2019 during the 12th African Union Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger where African leaders selected Ghana as the host country for the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Ghana was chosen from a shortlist of seven countries including Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal.
The colourful handing over ceremony held in Accra at the new secretariat facility situated around the Ridge roundabout was attended by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former presidents of Ghana, H.E. Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary General of the AfCFTA among many other dignitaries.
Speaking on Eye on Port prior to the handing over of the AfCFTA Secretariat to the African Union Commission, some trade experts praised Ghana’s commitment to being the torch bearer in the trade development strategy the continent has embarked on.
Trade Practitioner and the Executive Director of the AfCFTA Policy Network, Louis Yaw Afful, praised the historic milestone Ghana has attained with the hosting of the Secretariat calling it the first major Pan African institution hosted in the country.
“Ghana bided for and won because Ghana showed that commitment by its infrastructure provision as well as meeting all the other criteria for hosting,” he remarked.
He highlighted that the policy guiding the setting up of the Secretariat in Ghana enables Ghanaians to enjoy a significant local content participation in employment and other benefits such as capacity building, intellectual exchange, academic development, etc.
“The secretarial benefits include for example, they’re a lot of regional meetings in the aviation industry, for instance. And we know there is a sixty to forty (60-40) arrangement Ethiopia has with Government which I’m not sure is finalized. There’s going to that liberalization of institutions and partnerships, between private sector institutions, government and private sector, and government to government,” he cited.
The National President of the Borderless Alliance, Ziad Hamoui, also outlined the many benefits Ghanaians and economic operators of all backgrounds would enjoy from the setting up of the AfCFTA Secretariat in Ghana.
“On the level of the average economic operator who is asking what is in this for me, you should know that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will open up a single market for goods that are produced locally which would open up the opportunity to export these goods, duty free eventually to other African countries,” he highlighted.
The Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, on the same program, also highlighted some opportunities available to key state agencies like the Ghana Export Promotion Authority by virtue of their proximity to the operations of the AfCFTA Secretariat.
“In the short term, at least, once we have our Export Promotion Authority, Exim Bank and others in there, the early stages, they would need to take advantage of the opportunities working together closely with the Secretariat, to build their own capacity and the necessary linkages to grow our export,” Emmanuel Doni-Kwame asserted.
The official commissioning and handing over of the Secretariat witnessed speeches and addresses from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Minister of Trade and Industry.
The Minister of Trade and Industry Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng stated that “The case for an integrated market for Africa has never been in doubt despite the scepticism that has been associated with it. The most developed regions in the world, are incidentally the region with the highest market integration.”
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo welcomed the new Secretary General to Ghana.
“We welcome the new Secretary General of the Secretariat, Mr. Wamkele Mene and his family to Ghana. I know that he is fully aware of the enormous task ahead of him and his colleagues who would be managing the secretariat.”
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission also commended Ghana for the immense role being played to ensure that the vision of continental integration becomes a reality.
“I applaud the honourable trade minister Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng whose strong contribution I remember, together with the Foreign Minister, Shirley Botchway who was also critical to not only Ghana’s effort to host the AfCFTA Secretariat but to the entire process,” The AUC Chair said.
The Secretary General of the AfCFTA paid great tribute to the heads of the Assembly and Ghanaian governments for their support in bringing the vision to areality.
“Since my election in February 2020, His Excellency, Moussa Faki, and his team provided me with the resources and the support, that I needed during the period of my stay in Addis-Ababa waiting to transition to Accra,” Mr. Wamkele Mene acknowledged.
He bemoaned the low patronage of Intra-African trade and expressed hope for a turnaround of events.