Ghana has won the bid to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), after a vigorous bidding process.
The announcement was made in Niamey, Niger where the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, is attending the African Union Council Meeting.
Kenya, Ghana, eSwatini, Madagascar, Egypt, Ethiopia and Senegal put in a bid to host the secretariat.
However, Ethiopia and Senegal pulled out along the line.
Ghana had to lobby a number of countries including Guinea Conakry where Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, went to seek the support of President Alpha Alpha Condé.
CFTA seeks to among other things, create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
It also seeks to pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union; expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes as well as instruments across RECs and across Africa in general.
Additionally, it aims to resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by an indicative date of 2017.
The Summit also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) which identifies seven clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.
Speaking in Niamey at the AU Council Meeting, Ms Ayorkor Botchwey said “Ghana is humbled by the decision of the Executive Council to recommend to our Assembly of Heads of State and Government that the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area be located in Accra, Ghana.”
She said “It is an honour for us and we thank you immensely for this decision. We thank eSwatini for their support this morning. Let me also from the outset congratulate Egypt, Ethiopia, eSwatini, Kenya, Senegal, and Madagascar for their greatest efforts to host the Secretariat.”
“Ghana never saw the process leading to the decision as a competition; it was not even deemed as the proverbial sister rivalry. We saw the process as sisterly countries desirous of advancing the implementation of the trade agreement.”
“Africa will forever remember and thank you all for your generous offers. Should the Assembly adopt the recommendation of this Council and the Secretariat be located in Ghana, please be assured it will belong to all of Africa.
The agreement is important to Africa because of the job opportunities it present to Africans,” she said, adding that “as the studies of the AU Commission point out, the Free Trade Area would be the largest in the world, serving 1.2 billion Africans and the Gross Domestic Product of $2.5 trillion.”
“The agreement is therefore an important strategy for the advancement of socio-economic of Africa and by extension will uplift millions of our people from poverty.”
“We are ready as a country to host the Secretariat. Also, appropriate and adequate facilities are in place to ensure that the Secretariat runs efficiently.”