18th January, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari and nine other African leaders, including African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina have been honoured for their leadership in actualising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The awardees included Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and incoming Chairperson of the African Union; Egyptian President Ahmed Fattah Al-Sisi; His Majesty King Mswati III, Ngwenyama of Eswatini; Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana.
Others are Alpha Conde, President of Guinea; Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, Chairperson of the African Union.
Two former heads of state, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, were also honoured.
The AfCFTA, the largest free trade area in the world, began trading on 1 January 2021 and is expected to speed up the recovery of the continent and enhance its resilience by increasing the level of intra-African trade in goods and services.
The award was staged Friday by AeTrade Group in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Business Council, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
“As Africans, we are proud of the extraordinary effort made by our leaders towards the success of the AfCFTA,” said former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Boshe at an event held at the Addis Ababa headquarters of the African Union and joined virtually by many participants.
Boshe, a patron of the AeTrade Group, thanked the awardees for their strong leadership in the process that led to the AfCFTA coming into force.
Ambassador Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, noted that the AfCFTA had generated strong support in Africa and the Diaspora, “and we are proud to acknowledge our champions who have been at the forefront of this process.”
He took the opportunity to thank the heads of state and governments whose countries have ratified the Free Trade Agreement and invited others to follow suit.
“We are also celebrating the key milestones achieved from when we laid the foundation for the initiative to the official start of trading on January 1. I would like to call on governments and the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities created by the continental initiative to make Africa more prosperous,” added Muchanga.
The Chairman of the AeTrade Group, Mulualem Syoum, thanked the African Development Bank, under the leadership of Dr. Adesina, for its outstanding technical guidance and financial support to the process.
“Moving forward, we want the private sector to speak with one voice. The AfCFTA has shown the way. To ensure effective implementation, it is time for the private sector to play its role. The Africa that we want can only be achieved through working together,” Syoum said. “We are confident that there is no need for Africa to depend on aid. We can spur domestic mobilization of resources and synergies.”
Dr. Amany Asfour, Interim Chair of the African Business Council, emphasized the role of the private sector in implementing the AfCFTA. “We in the private sector are committed to the implementation of this initiative. We will support Africa to actualise the free trade area.”
Hajiya Saratu Aliyu, President of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Charles Kahuthu, CEO of the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, echoed Asfour’s sentiments.
“Jobs have to be restored and livelihoods and economies revived,” Kahuthu said.
“We also need to come together to promote products made in Africa to effectively implement the AfCFTA.”
AeTrade Group is a multi-stakeholder group of African Diaspora professionals and businesspeople, with affiliation to the African Union Commission.