EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: At the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) at the African Union Heads of State Extraordinary summit in Rwandan capital Kigali, Gambia’s President Adama Barrow said improving commercial engagement between African countries will strengthen the continent’s engagement with the rest of the world.
“The concept of Regional Integration is nothing new to Africa as the region has been the forerunner of economic integration initiatives over a century with the establishment of the South African Customs Union (SACU) in 1901,” Mr. Barrow said.
He said Africa’s continued desire for regional integration is because its individual economies are too small to enable it to harness the vast potential and opportunities it offers to her people.
“This extra-ordinary summit is to strengthen our desire to create the economic space for our industries and businesses to leverage these opportunities that Africa offers.”
Mr. Barrow who defeated Gambia’s long-term President Yahya Jammeh in the country’s 2016 election said the Free Trade Area will help African industries and businesses to become competitive by creating economies of scale, re-position them to effectively compete and engage with the rest of the world. “It can also establish and strengthen regional product value chains and facilitate the transfer of technology and knowledge.
Hr said the agreement will also boost industrial development, promote economic transformation and create new job opportunities and wealth for the youthful population.
According to him, effective regional integration is more than removing tariffs, ssying it is about addressing on-the-ground constraints that paralyze the daily operations of ordinary producers and traders.
Hr said the fact that it took Africa three years to negotiate and agree to sign the agreement is an indication of the leaders strong commitment for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area, saying the signing of te agreement would send a strong signal to the rest of the world that Africa is now ready for business.