The Speaker of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), Roger Nkodo Dang, yesterday described the proposed African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) as the next salvation for Africa because it will help Africans meet their needs by trading with each other.
The lawmaker made the comment in Kigali shortly after meeting the Speaker of Rwanda's Lower House, Donatille Mukabalisa, as well as the President of the Rwandan Senate, Bernard Makuza.
"A free trade area in Africa is like salvation for the continent. Africa must unite and we have to trade with each other as African countries. That's why a decision that will be made in Kigali on the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will have full support of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) so it can be ratified by all countries," Nkodo Dang told journalists.
An agreement on the CFTA is expected to be signed in Kigali today at an extraordinary African Union Summit that will be attended by dozens of Heads of State and Government.
Nkodo Dang, who is attending the summit, decided to pay a courtesy call to Rwanda's Parliament chiefs on the sidelines of the meeting because the Parliament of Rwanda is one of PAP members, he said.
Giving an example of how his home country Cameroon imports a lot of rice for home consumption and sometimes at high prices, the Speaker of the Pan-African Parliament said that the CFTA will be important because it will open Africa's borders.
Countries in Africa that have the goods needed in other countries on the continent will be able to send them across borders without difficulty, the lawmaker said.
"We can consume what is in our different countries at lower prices," he said.
Experts say that despite expected losses in terms of tariff revenues for African countries the benefits from the CFTA will be several times higher, especially through lower prices for consumer goods.
Both Makuza and Nkodo Dang said that African parliamentarians can play a role in convincing their governments to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement once it is signed and that PAP can play the advocacy role for that purpose.
Apart from being signed by Heads of States and Government, the agreement must be ratified domestically and that's where Parliaments will come in.
"It's parliaments across Africa that help in the process of ratification of agreements, which means that PAP using MPs representing African countries has a role to make the agreement accepted and ratified by governments," Makuza said.
Established in 2004 as an organ of the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament ensures the participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent.
PAP currently has consultative and advisory powers within the AU and each Member State is represented at the parliament by five parliamentarians.
What they said
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa
This is the moment for the African continent. A free trade area for Africa is going to be like a flood. A flood that is going to lift all the boats. It is not about South Africa. It is more about all of us. All countries of Africa participating - big and small. This is an opportunity that is going to yield benefits for small countries as well as big ones. It is going to create a level playing field for small and big companies to do meaningful business.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa
We have put together the index to let us know how quickly countries are moving forward to ratify this. In 2025, if we do well and make it work, the African market will be USD 3.6 trillion. This is not insignificant for businesses, At the end of the day, it is why we are here.
Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of Econet Wireless Group
We want one market. One single African market. We cannot sustain employment creation for our young people. You(leaders) have to give us, the private sector, the tools to expand, the tools to move people working within our business and tools to move much quicker than we do. What we want is efficient implementation (of the CFTA). Let us ratify this accord. Let us move quickly and execute on it.
Ali Mufuruki, Tanzanian billionaire and founder of Infotech Investment Group
You can eat from free trade but you definitely cannot eat sovereignty. The CFTA is not being done for the first time. We are being late. It has benefited other regions, the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN. We should look at their successes.
Donald Kaberuka, Former President of the African Development Bank
This is a great day for our continent. And for any country to have reservation or fears is a disappointment. The way this agreement has been negotiated and written contains segments to ensure that whoever has issues, those can be addressed.
Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
The continent has an amazing asset - its young people. They are smart, better educated, live longer and entrepreneurial. If they operate in the right conditions they will lift this continent. The CFTA creates conditions for these jobs to be created. It is the implementation of the CFTA that will lead to the creation of the jobs. This is why implementation is important.
Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria
We need to get a critical mass of hands, heads and minds of political and private sector leadership to move us forward. I am surprised that any African leader at this point in time will be talking about either not understanding or not very important to be here to support what we are signing. I see that as criminal.
Paul Kagame, Chairperson of the African Union and President of Rwanda
Increasing intra-African trade does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world. On the contrary, as we trade more among ourselves, African firms will become bigger, more specialised, and more competitive internationally. From now on, the clear wish of everyone is that consultation between business and political leadership, at all levels, becomes a continuous feature of continental deliberations.
Amelia Kyambadde, Uganda's Minister for Trade and Industry
The agreement is very important not only for Uganda but for the region for trading in goods and services. It is going to be an opportunity for job creation for the youth because they will be able to move and seek jobs across the continent.
The CFTA helps us to organise ourselves as Africans in view to the challenges we have experienced in regards to other global blocs. This will give us an apex and the empowerment needed to address the non-tariff barriers and allow us to compete with other global blocs.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe
The (Continental Free Trade Area) should have been achieved perhaps 40 years ago. I believe, possibly, there was not much political will. But today I think that there is the needed political will.