The 34th Ordinary Session of the Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union (AU) got underway February 6-7, 2021, with President George M. Weah of Liberia affirming his government’s commitment to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement.
“I have placed the ratification of this Agreement at the top of my Legislative Agenda for 2021. Once ratified by all member states, ACFTA will become an even stronger tool for economic growth on the African Continent,” President Weah remarked Sunday when he addressed his colleague African statesman via zoom conference in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic that has restricted the convergence of world body leaders at various fora, thus compelling President Weah to applaud outgoing AU Chairman, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for “his prompt response for a Continental Strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the establishment of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team that is to support the whole-of-Africa approach to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing as of 1 January 2021, created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
The agreement was brokered by the African Union (AU) and was signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018 with the aim of creating a single market, deepening the economic integration of the continent; creating a liberalized market through multiple rounds of negotiations; aiding the movement of capital and people, facilitating investment; moving towards the establishment of a future continental customs union; achieving sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development, gender equality and structural transformations within member states; enhancing competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market; encouraging industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security, and resolving challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships.
Speaking on the ACFTA, President Weah stressed the importance of utilization of the Quota System by all AU member states.
“My delegation aligns itself with the proposal by the R10 Team, that the Quota System should take into consideration the principle of solidarity and payment of contributions. My delegation would like to state that this key component should not be the sole choice of the Commission, but should also be in conjunction with member states.
Regarding the Forensic Audit Report, the findings are not encouraging. However, we are not without hope that the right thing CAN be done, and WILL be done, commencing with the implementation of the recommendations of the Report; as well as the extension of such audit to other organs of the AU. My delegation also aligns itself with the decision to adopt the budget for the year 2022, without any funding gap; in line with the golden rules,” President Weah affirmed.
Held under the theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”, the 34th AU Summit, President Weah observed, “does not only underscore appreciation of our culture, but more importantly, it highlights the need to harness this rich cultural diversity and heritage to foster integration, development, and peace on our continent. Indeed, celebrating this theme will showcase the potential of our diverse heritage to build the Africa we want.”
The Liberian leader further hailed the work done under the auspices of President Kagame, which President Weah claimed as laudable and impressive. “I therefore seize the opportunity to call for more targeted and practical actions which will ensure that reform in the African Union structures will translate into tangible benefits in the lives and livelihoods of our people. To achieve this, we as leaders will have to take deliberate steps, collectively and in our respective countries, so that the impact of these reforms is manifested through stronger continental economic integration, ease in trade and commerce, and free intra-continental movement.”
In furtherance of Liberia’s commitment to continental peace and security, President Weah called for urgent action to suppress the continuous wave of insecurity in various parts of the continent, caused by insurgencies and terrorists.
“The persistent attacks by terrorists in some parts of West Africa, including Mali, where troops from the Liberian army are serving under a multinational peace-keeping force, need urgent attention. Additionally, the growing threats to Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, where pirate attacks are on the increase, gravely affects trade and commerce. We must adopt stringent measures to curtail this unacceptable situation,” President Weah cautioned.