Countdown begins for final phases of AfCFTA ratification
By Nsikan Ikpe
Two West African nations, Ghana and Niger are presently putting finishing touches to their participation plans for the African Union’s mid-year conference in June when the formal processes for the commencement of the long-awaited African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA are expected to take off.
While Niger is playing host to the assembling continental leaders, Ghana is engaged in a frantic lobby to get the nod of fellow African leaders for the Secretariat of the Trade Coordination Centre to be located in Accra.
The AfCFTA ratification summit is expected to take place at a new $120 million 250-room Conference facility located in the heart of Niamey, the Nigerien capital.
Incidentally, President Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger was the pioneering Chair of the Heads of States task team that the AU had put together to midwife the AfCFTA process just before Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame took up the mantle of leadership of the AU and hosted the landmark Kigali summit where 44 Heads of State signed up for the treaty in March, 2018.
A further 5 states signed up in July at a follow-up summit held in Mauritania while the total number of signed up states is now put at 52.
On the corollary issues of ratification of the agreement and consequent depositing of the instruments of ratification at the AU Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 23 countries have presently ratified the agreement, with 18 depositing same at the AU Secretariat. 4 more deposits and a waiting period of 30 days are now needed to kick-start the treaty.
The Board of the African Development Bank has already approved a $4.8 million grant to help fast-track the process while the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UN-ECA, is engaged in a cross-continental sensitisation drive to generate even more awareness and interest in the Agreement as well as the need to bring it into force as soon as possible.
The practical implementation of the AfCFTA treaty is expected to seriously boost intra-African trade, reduce barriers to continental integration and cooperation and bring about the world’s single largest free trade bloc.
As at press time, the Heads of State of Nigeria, Benin and Eritrea were the only three African Heads of State that are yet to express public support for the treaty through formally signing up for it.
President Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana