Source: President to attend AU Summit in Niger | The Herald July 5, 2019
Kudakwashe Mugari in NIAMEY, Niger
President Mnangagwa will join fellow Heads of State and Government here for the Extraordinary African Union Summit (AU) which starts today. The summit, which is running under the theme: “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to forced displacement in Africa,” will end on July 8. The sub-Saharan country is hosting the African Summit for the first time.
The summit will commence with the 35th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council followed by the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) before closing with the mid-year coordination meeting of the African Union and Regional Economic Communities.
Zimbabwe is part of more than 20 African countries that are pushing for AfCTFA.
Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Mr George Charamba said Zimbabwe, as a founding member, will join other African countries in celebrating the birth of a free trade area.
“What we are doing is to celebrate the coming into force of the continental free trade area. There is a benchmark number of countries which have ratified the treaty for it to come into force, end of May.
“Zimbabwe qualify as a founder member of Continental Free Trade Area and that comes after a certain recognition and have privileges, that’s why we are going to Niger,” Mr Charamba said.
He said that the AfCTFA will result in upgrading of trade infrastructure in the region.
“The intention is to recognise that there is a lot that is pending and should be done within the continent by wealth encouraging inter-countries and intra-continental trade except their pre-requisite that are required by way of infrastructure.
“As you know historically, infrastructure in the African continent has always been oriented towards linkages with other continents particularly Europe as a colonial power.
“What we are trying to do as a region is to create infrastructure that allows countries to talk to each other, by way of trade, economic development and by way of people associations,” Mr Charamba said.
He pointed out that this will make Zimbabwe a hub of regional trade.
“This is where we have Zimbabwe’s vision as a hub of Southern Africa to try and get its own infrastructure by way of rail, road, air, air linkages to talk and connect with the rest of Africa.
“That is in consistency with the continental vision so that we can stimulate trade within the continent and this against the background of the abrasive nationalism with nationalistic trend worldwide led by Americans because America is not amenable with the global trade if anything, becoming more introverted we see similar sentiments coming out of Europe.
“Once we have continental blocks getting more inward looking and introverted then necessarily there are certain adjustments that the continent itself will have to by way of ensuring that it is not cut out of trade both intra continental as well as global trade, and the assumption here is if we coordinate, if we are closely related we should be able to negotiate with the rest of the world,” Mr Charamba said.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministry spokesperson Mr Shepherd Gwenzi said the Session will be held under the AU chairmanship of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current chair of AU.
“The thrust of the Summit will be the launch of the Operation Phase of the AfCFTA,” he said.
AfCFTA, he said, is a continent-wide free trade area for the AU member States which was launched at the AU Extraordinary Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018.
“It aims at creating a single market for goods and services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent, in accordance with the pan-African vision of ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’ as enshrined in Agenda 2063,” said Mr Gwenzi.
AfCFTA will bring together all 55 members states of the AU covering a market of more than 1,2 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than US$3,4 million.
Zimbabwe signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA on March 21 last year in Rwanda.
To date, 24 members States have deposited instrument of ratification and Zimbabwe became the 23rd member State to deposit the instruments of ratification on May 24 this year.
Mr Gwenzi said AfCFTA involved opening up of trade in goods and services to the rest of Africa.
This, he said, will serve as an impetus for investment in Zimbabwe and Africa’s cross-border infrastructure.
“The participation of Zimbabwe would mean opening up to 29 additional countries, mainly from Central Africa, West Africa and North Africa which provides an enlarged market access for the country’s exports,” he said.
“Building infrastructure will also create additional jobs and foster the development of engineering services. The prospects for the larger markets and supporting infrastructure will spur industrial development.”