Rwandan President Paul Kagame has called on the Pan African Parliament to help speed up the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) by member states.
The AfCFTA is the world’s largest bloc, estimated to bring about long-term gains of about $16 billion annually to the continent through the elimination of tariffs, free movement of people and goods across the continent.
In his address to the First Ordinary Session of the Fifth Pan African Parliament, President Kagame, who is the African Union chairman, asked the legislators to exploit their dual roles to become advocates of African integration in their countries and at the continental legislature.
“I ask for your support for the speedy ratification of the CFTA, the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, and other key pillars of Agenda 2063. The entry into force of these historic pacts will do more to accelerate economic growth on our continent. We cannot afford to squander the momentum we have gained,” he said.
“But we need your help to communicate more effectively with constituents and stakeholders about the importance of these agreements for the well-being of our citizens and economies.”
So far, 48 countries have signed the AfCFTA, with South Africa, the latest, signing in July.
Nigeria is one the countries that have declined to sign it.
President Kagame said that the African Union is financially healthier than before, having slashed its annual budget by 14 per cent, with more member states contributing their share of funds.
“Important changes are underway on our continent, and in the wider world, and we have to be ready to meet them. Working together is the only way to give Africa’s position the weight it should have in the wider geopolitical context,” he said.
“We must meet the imperative of good governance, with innovations and solutions drawn from Africa’s rich experiences and cultures, even as we remain open to benefiting from the best global insights.”
The President of the Pan African Parliament Roger Nkodo Dang emphasised the need to fight corruption for regional integration to work.
“Corruption is a challenge that we should all be concerned about. It is up to us as legislators to work hard and fight against this evil that leads to poverty and underdevelopment,” he said.
According to the United Nations, Africa loses $50 billion annually in illicit capital flows aided by corruption.