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African Union - 33rd Summit: Speech by Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the AU Commission

09/07/2019
00:00

JULY 7, 2019, NIAMEY, NIGER 

Excellency Mr. Abdel Fattah Al Sissi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, President-in-Office of the African Union,
Excellency Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger and Champion of the African Free Trade Area,
Your Excellencies,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heads of State and Government,
Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations,
Mr Roberto Azevedo, Director General of the WTO, Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

A dream, an old dream comes true. Considered from the inaugural OAU Summit in May 1963, the African Free Trade Area that we are launching today is one of the most emblematic projects of the African Agenda. The Founding Fathers must be proud of it. Kwame Nkrumah, Jamal Abdel Nasser, Haile Selassie, Hamani Diori and the others must finally say to themselves! Also, allow me, Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads of State and Government, to express our thanks for your support and personal commitment that have allowed this invaluable achievement.

A special mention to HE Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger and ZLECAf Champion, for his leadership and his commitment to successfully carry out the exalting mission you entrusted to him. Indeed, I was witness to it, he piloted, with faith, passion and determination, the whole process that led to this historic meeting today.

It is also an opportunity to salute the remarkable work of the Commission, notably the Department of Trade and Industry, under the leadership of Commissioner Albert Muchanga, the African Ministers and Experts as well as our partners, ECA, AfDB, the WTO, for their contribution. Adopted and opened for signature on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, the ZLECAF Agreement registered at its birth 44 signatures, a record number in the annals of the legal architecture of our Union. And in just one year, the number of signatures has increased to 52 and, with the signing of Benin and Nigeria, we are at 54 (almost all AU members) and 27 ratifications. Entered into force on May 30, 2019, the ZLECAf becomes the largest trading area in the world.

Africa, with an estimated population of 1.27 billion, is projected to reach 1.7 billion by 2030 and 2.5 billion by 2050, or 26 percent of the world's working-age population, and nearly 70% of this population is under 30 years of age and more than half are women. The growth of the African economy should be twice as fast as that of the developed world. Africa is the second largest and second largest continent in the world. These orders of magnitude reflect the enormous potential of Africa. Let us derive the benefits from it, the dividends in favor of our populations mainly constituted of youth. 

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, 

Thanks to the remarkable work of our ministers and experts, the ZLEFC will be supported from the outset by well-defined rules of origin, lists of tariff concessions in the trade of goods, an online mechanism for monitoring and Continental non-tariff barriers, a pan-African payments and digital settlements platform, a web and mobile application for businesses, and a portal to the African Trade Observatory.

The reports submitted to your Conference contain several legal instruments accompanying the Agreement itself including 3 Protocols, mechanisms and modalities of its implementation which, without any doubt, will allow us to overcome all obstacles to trade. Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, The relatively fast entry into force is a pride for all of us. One of the characteristics of the ZLECAF is that it contains a variety of economic, geographical and demographic situations, ranging from the smallest to the largest, with a GDP of one to 350 billion US dollars.

More than a free trade area, ZLECAF is one of the most important tools for achieving the right integration of the objectives of the Abuja Treaty and the aspirations of Agenda 2063. It is obvious that the operationalization of the ZLECAF is likely to favor entrepreneurship, the employment of youth and the emancipation of women, this African youth plagued by all temptations (rural exodus, migration, trafficking, crime border). We are in Niger, a transit country. We are on the border of Libya where hundreds of thousands of African migrants live the horror of death and humiliation. We are challenged.

We must act and act now. ZLECAF can not be effective if we do not open the borders to Africans. I would like to emphasize the urgent need to ratify the Protocol on Free Movement, which is a condition for free trade. It is indeed paradoxical and inexplicable that Africans feel, even today, foreigners at home, suffer a less favorable visa regime compared to other citizens of the world, as it appears in some of our states. Similarly, Member States must begin to popularize the distribution of the pan-African passport, which is a wonderful tool for the promotion of African identity.

The other prerequisite of commercial integration is the construction of infrastructures that will allow the interconnection of countries and regions (roads, railways, bridges, airports, energy, telecommunication). Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, I can not conclude without highlighting the central role of peacebuilding and security on our continent. It would be illusory to speak of trade or development without peace and security. Niger (because we are here) Chad, Cameroon, a country with an agro-pastoral vocation and whose market is Nigeria, have been living it daily for several years.

The livestock sector is, for example, virtually stopped because of Boko Haram. The Sahel countries also devote almost a third of their budget to security to the detriment of the social sectors, real engines of development. Such situations are also observed in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. In this context, our major challenge is to concretely implement the other flagship project of the Agenda 2063, that of "silencing the weapons by 2020", also chosen as the theme of the year 2020 .

I remain convinced that Niamey will forever mark the contemporary history of Africa by opening a new era that must absolutely be consolidated. I thank you for your kind attention.

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