Citizen Okoro and how AfCFTA would work
By Richard Mammah
About twelve years ago, the board of The Difference newspaper decided to add a reading promotions component to the work done by the newspaper as part of a visionary drive to inspire a new generation of pan-African champions.
To kick off the process, this writer reached out to a most dependable associate with whom he had criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, driving an earlier national reading promotions effort.
That associate, Emmanuel Okoro bought fully into the programme and work began instantly. Our first sessions were in the Ketu area of Lagos, where we successfully established a handful of Pan-African Clubs, beginning with Amen Nursery and Primary School.
At the sessions with the children, we read to them from books about Africa and discussed with them the geography, history and potentials of the African continent. We encouraged them to individually continue with the process of inquiring into and about the continent, and to cultivate a deep and passionate cross-cutting love for the continent and her peoples, without any inhibitions or prejudices. We encouraged them to seek and make friends across the continent, learn as many of its languages as they could and to, wait for it; prepare themselves to be able to work and live in any of the countries in the continent!
I remember that somewhere along the line, Okoro made a road trip from Lagos to Accra and came back with quiet interesting tales. Several of our team members and associates, myself included, also made similar trips and they were indeed quite pleasant experiences, more so when we had very solid ground support at the Accra end from our own people, Henry Yaw Mallet and Joseph Ojumu. Two of our team members who I recall quite vividly made the trips back then were Daniel Eke and Abdulmumini Adeku. And at different points in time, The Difference was to also accept barter facilities with the likes of Peace Motors and The Young Shall Grow Motors during this period, as well as several more from the Accra end that helped to deepen our practical pan-African engagement during this period.
I tell these stories today because of my firm belief that if the historic African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA – that both the African Union Secretariat at Addis Ababa and the AfCFTA Headquarters staff in AfCFTA House, Accra have continued, along with the governments of 54 signed up states, 32 ratified states and international partners, to work towards its practical take-off next week – is to succeed, it will come on the hands and backs of simple, single Africans, who believe in it and give it a chance to work.
Yes, the governments and multilateral agencies, as well as the corporations and expats would play their roles but AfCFTA has to be a real grassroots project to have a proper fighting chance.
And this is why as the scheme rolls off, we want to counsel and admonish that all hands must be on deck to ensure that, unlike a lot of the alienating situation that has continued to befall our governance space across the continent, AfCFTA must be properly established as ‘our own.’ To do otherwise is to invite circumstances and outcomes that we do not even want to mention.
Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, AfCFTA