Lagos — Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, on Saturday urged Nigeria to join the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) movement after appropriate consultations and offered ECA support to help the West African country join South Africa and 48 other countries in signing the AfCFTA.
Speaking at a symposium hosted by the ECA to celebrate the work and life of its late former Executive Secretary, Prof. Adebeyo Adedeji, Ms. Songwe said some countries had not signed the AfCFTA in Kigali, Rwanda, three months ago because they preferred to go through processes of internal consultation first.
At the recent African Union Summit held in Nouakchott, capital of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Burundi joined the 44 countries that had already signed the AfCFTA, which seeks, among other things, to create a single continental market for goods and services thereby boosting trade between African countries.
Said Ms. Songwe of Prof. Adedeji: "I think his dream of an Africa that trades with itself, an Africa where economic integration happens because it is important; because it is need, is finally at our doorstep."
"If ever there was any legacy that ECA could have left for Prof. Adedeji, is really to keep working on the AfCFTA. We are hoping Nigeria will join us as we work towards the continental free trade agreement. This really is the legacy for Africa."
She said forming the AfCFTA was a monumental task that will change the face of Africa.
"The rest of the world is watching us and they are not indifferent to Africa coming together as an economic power. This is really what Prof. Adedeji wanted, that Africa finally goes to the table of negotiations as1.2 billion people and say this is how Africa wants to negotiate," said Ms. Songwe.
She added the African Union Commission (AUC), the ECA and the African Development Bank (AfDB) were currently having discussions to look at 'what the that architecture of a one Africa negotiating from an economic place of strength would look like'.
The ECA Chief urged African countries to diversify their economies saying this would be a huge game-changer on the continent.
"We must move into diversification. Economic transformation is important and economic diversification is even more important," said Ms. Songwe.
"If today the Europeans trade amongst themselves at 60 percent, it is because they have diversified enough to be able to trade with each other."
She said the reason African countries didn't trade enough with each other was because their economies continued to depend on the export of one or a few commodities or primary products like oil and cocoa.
"We can diversify our economies and ensure we start to trade more with each other. That is the legacy that Prof. Adebayo has left us. He left us economic transformation and now we're moving towards diversification. We need to value our knowledge," said the ECA Chief, adding the continent also needs to value its knowledge.
Professor Adedeji was celebrated by many who attended the symposium for being a towering and fearless proponent of regional integration in Africa who pushed Africa's development agenda at every opportunity.