Free Trade debate gathers momentum in Addis Ababa

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The dream of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) edged one step closer to becoming reality this week, following a meeting of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Ministers in Addis Ababa.

There is resistance to it in some circles. However, the developments at this week’s Ministerial Conference in Ethiopia would suggest that significant momentum is being gathered.

This adventure is not just about unifying the African continent. It is about changing the world’s economic structures – a process which many African leaders feel is long overdue, as the continent starts to abandon the west and looks east.

Speaking at the conference Aia-Eza Nacilia Gomes Da Silva, Angola’s Secretary of State for Budget, said: “Free trade is not just a matter of being together, it’s a matter of changing internal structures, having uniform policies, and preparing agendas that are not conflicting with international commitments.”

Ghanaian Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta wants progress to made on this pact, to benefit the continent’s people.

“Ghana always felt that a much more united Africa will benefit all of us,” he said at the Conference.

The most important player in all of this is the African Union (AU) – a body which is often viewed with scepticism. However, if this programme is to succeed, the AU will have to lead. Is it fully on board?

“The challenge we face is that not all of us in Africa believe the AfCFTA can be made to deliver,” said AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga.

“We need to ensure that all of us change our mindsets and believe we can do it,” added Muchanga.

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