The permanent secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has been inaugurated in Ghana.
Ghana was selected as the venue for the headquarters by African leaders during a Summit of African Union (AU) Heads of states in Niamey in July last year. Currently, 54 states have signed on to AfCFTA, out of which 28 have ratified.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group provided a $5 million grant to AU to establish the secretariat in Accra.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission, at the inauguration said "The economic integration of Africa will lay strong foundations for an Africa beyond aid.
Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo said, "Africa's new sense of urgency and aspiration of true self-reliance will be amply demonstrated by today's ceremony."
President Akufo-Addo appealed to member states that have not ratified to do so before the next AU summit in December, "to pave the way for the smooth commencement of trading from 1 January 2021."
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA, the Ghanaian president said.
Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA, said the agreement offered an opportunity for Africa to confront the significant trade and economic development challenges. "We have to take action now. We have to take action to dismantle the colonial economic model that we inherited."