Dr Hage Geingob
In January 2018, the AU Assembly established the African Continental Free-Trade Area. This was a historic and defining moment in our continent’s agenda towards economic transformation. On 30 May 2019, the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free-Trade Area entered into force, and to date twenty-five (25) AU Member States have ratified it, with fifty-four (54) signatures. Today, we are witnessing the official launch of the AFCFTA, which is a historic landmark towards the full economic liberation of Africa.
We welcome the excellent report presented by Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger and champion of the African Continental Free-Trade Area to the Extraordinary Summit and congratulate him for his dedicated leadership, which led to the success of this process.
With the entry into force of the African Continental Free-Trade Area, the onus is on us to ensure the value addition and the beneficiation of our primary and raw products, in order to realise our dream of a single African market.
It is time to wean ourselves from historical economic ties that are characterised by the export of raw and unprocessed products just to import final products and material back into the African market for consumption. We must therefore identify the value chains that will leapfrog our industries towards industrialisation, and remove administrative and structural bottlenecks that prevent us from building our industries. Africa must industrialise, and the time is now.
The African Continental Free-Trade Area will lead to regional value chains, increased productivity, efficiencies, diversification, and competitiveness of our industries. This can only be done if our economic development is underpinned by the requisite knowledge-based capabilities, with a sufficiently enabling environment for public and private participation.
Similarly, strong institutions, systems and processes will further advance industrialisation. Vocational education and institutions of higher education in Africa play a crucial role in providing the necessary skills-base and knowledge to the labour market for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Continuous business and service reforms can benefit from integrating the latest technologies into business processes and value chains. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, therefore, requires agility and adaptability of the private sector. Applied research and development are crucial factors to be delivered by training and research institutions.
Our continent’s integration is critically dependent on the connectivity between our countries, which will facilitate the seamless movement of people, goods and services and increase intra-Africa trade. With sixteen (16) landlocked African countries, we must build the requisite rail and road infrastructure to increase the flow of goods between borders.
In closing, our plea to this August Assembly is that while negotiations for the implementation of the African Continental Free-Trade Area continue to gather momentum, the same needs to be accompanied by commitments from us, the leaders present here today, to ensure globally competitive industries supported by world class infrastructure and a conducive investment environment, in order to realise the vision of a prosperous Africa as espoused in our Agenda 2063.
We congratulate Ghana for having been selected to host the headquarters of the African Continental Free-Trade Area.
* Dr Hage Geingob is President of Namibia and current Chairman of Sadc. He delivered these remarks at the closing session of the 12th extraordinary session of the African Union Assembly in Niamey, Niger on Sunday.