Addis Ababa (ENA) — Physical infrastructure has remained a major bottleneck in accelerating the implementation of the African free trade opportunities, Sierra Leone Foreign Minister Professor David Francis said.
Speaking to ENA, the minister commended Ethiopia for its endeavors on physical integration to integrate the African continent via Ethiopian Airlines.
Noting that infrastructural development is vital to accelerate the African free trade area, the minister noted that Ethiopia has come a long way to build physical infrastructure that would facilitate regional linkage.
For instance, Ethiopian Airlines, energy infrastructures like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and Ethio-Djibouti railway could be taken as the catalysts of regional integration and even beyond.
"I want to really commend the government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most important airlines today traveling across the continent and outside of the continent. This is what we talk about physical integration. I can leave Sierra Leone today and come to Ethiopia; and I will return the next day via Ethiopian Airlines."
Those infrastructures can help trade integration through free movement of the African people, he elaborated.
Thus, Africa has to raise the capital for infrastructures, Francis stated, citing that Ethiopia is building mega projects by mobilizing domestic resources and using its own manpower.
"We cannot wait for the outsiders to come and help us. We have to do it for ourselves. We have to raise the capital. Look at the way how Addis Ababa is built? It's is built not just by external actors, but by Ethiopians themselves investing in their own country. This is the lesson that we want to share with the rest of the world."
The professor minister also commended Ethiopia's peace agreement facilitated by the African Union to end the two year long war, which is a clear demonstration of African solutions for African problems.
The new generation of African leaders can learn from Ethiopia's peace talks to manage the future challenges of the continent, he noted.
Moreover, Francis stated that Africa will remain underdeveloped without accelerating the implementation of free trade opportunities.
He believes that the theme of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU): "Acceleration of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation" is an important agenda that needs concrete decision from the leaders.
"Accelerating the implementation of the continental free trade area is one of the greatest opportunities provided for Africa. Africa today is faced with global challenges such as the global food crisis and financial crisis; but also energy and security crises."
All these adversely impact Africa, so that is why the African Heads of state and government decided to come to this particular summit.
The minister added that Africa has a great potential with a population of 1.2 billion and strategic mineral resources.
Unfortunately, the people of the continent have not achieved and realized the benefits from the abundant mineral resources of Africa.
"One key challenge (in Africa) is not just the acceleration of free trade agreements and removal of barriers between trade and between countries, but it's really physical infrastructure. "
Therefore, African institutions and member states of the AU should give priority for infrastructure, trade and economic integration without expecting external actors.
For the minister, the legacy of colonial rule has created the impression that development comes from outside of Africa.