Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, were at the weekend at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, among African leaders honoured for their roles in facilitating the endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by 54 countries in the continent.
A news report circulated by the African Press Organisation (APO) Group on the event listed other awardees as including the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and incoming Chairperson of the African Union, Felix Tshisekedi,; Egyptian President, Ahmed Fattah Al-Sisi; and His Majesty King Mswati III, Ngwenyama of Eswatini.
Other awardees include the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed; President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo; President of Guinea, Alpha Conde; President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; and President of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union,
Also, two former heads of state,former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe; Nigeria’s former Head of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; were also honoured.
The award was organised by AeTrade Group in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Business Council, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
Commenting on the awards, “As Africans, we are proud of the extraordinary effort made by our leaders towards the success of the AfCFTA,” said former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Boshe at an event held at the Addis Ababa headquarters of the African Union and joined virtually by many participants.
Boshe, a patron of the AeTrade Group, thanked the awardees for their strong leadership in the process that led to the AfCFTA coming into force.
African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, noted that the AfCFTA had generated strong support in Africa and the Diaspora, adding that “and we are proud to acknowledge our champions who have been at the forefront of this process.”
He thanked the heads of state and governments whose countries hadratified the Free Trade Agreement and invited others to follow suit.
The Commissioner enthused: “We are also celebrating the key milestones achieved from when we laid the foundation for the initiative to the official start of trading on January 1. I would like to call on governments and the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities created by the continental initiative to make Africa more prosperous.”
The Chairman of the AeTrade Group, Mulualem Syoum, thanked the African Development Bank, under the leadership of Dr. Adesina, for its outstanding technical guidance and financial support to the process.
He said: “Moving forward, we want the private sector to speak with one voice. The AfCFTA has shown the way. To ensure effective implementation, it is time for the private sector to play its role. The Africa that we want can only be achieved through working together.
“We are confident that there is no need for Africa to depend on aid. We can spur domestic mobilization of resources and synergies”, Syoum added.
Interim Chair of the African Business Council, Dr. Amany Asfour, harped on the role of the private sector in implementing the AfCFTA, pointing out that “we in the private sector are committed to the implementation of this initiative. We will support Africa to actualise the free trade area.”
In her remarks, President of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Hajiya Saratu Aliyu, and the CEO of the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Charles Kahuthu, also shared Asfour’s sentiments.
Kahuthu said: “Jobs have to be restored and livelihoods and economies revived. We also need to come together to promote products made in Africa to effectively implement the AfCFTA.”
AeTrade Group is a multi-stakeholder group of African Diaspora professionals and businesspeople, with affiliation to the African Union Commission.
The AfCTA, world’s largest free trade facilitation pact, became effective on January 1 this year and is expected to boost intra-African trade and support national governments’ efforts targeted at revitalizing their economies following the impact of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic globally.