Calls for implementation and enhancement of AfCFTA to enhance growth and development at AU meeting

  • 25 Jul 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Naisiae Simiren


Last week, the 5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting (MYCM) was held at the United Nations African headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi. The Summit witnessed a remarkable gathering of 51 foreign ministers from the African Union (AU) member states, accompanied by 15 heads of states and an additional 1500 delegates. During the meeting, a wide array of topics were discussed including the implementation and enhancement of economic integration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Additionally, there was a comprehensive review of the report on AU institutional reforms, works of regional economic communities and mechanisms among others.

In the opening remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed, she noted that the African continent was facing a number of challenges that hindered the implementation of Agenda 2063. Ms Mohamed also highlighted the impact of various conflicts and acts of terrorism occurring across the continent, which were posing significant obstacles to growth and development. She applauded African leaders who advocated for Africa’s narrative as a viable solution to its own challenges on platforms abroad. Ms Mohamed further applauded leaders who challenged unmet commitments by developed countries in financing climate action and other humanitarian needs that were critical in achieving Agenda 2063. She called on the leaders to stand united against the return of colonisation in various forms in Africa.

President William Ruto in his welcoming remarks echoed Ms Amina’s sentiments that it was time for Africa to stand in solidarity, especially in the international arena. President Ruto noted that Africa needs to showcase its global strength, demonstrating readiness to provide leadership and solutions to its unique challenges. The President strongly urged the implementation of AU institutional reforms, envisioning an inclusive era of industrialisation, shared prosperity and effective climate action policies. He noted that the self-sustenance of the AU was critical and discouraged reliance on partner funding of AU programmes, insisting that the desired Pan-Africanism of sovereignty and urgency would be effective if the AU could mobilise resources internally.

President Ruto on AU institutional reforms called for the examination of functions of AU’s internal organs to avoid the duplication of roles. On climate action, Dr Ruto urged the audience to use the African Climate Summit (scheduled for September 2023) as a platform to make transformative African decisions towards global energy transition and which would influence solutions during the upcoming COP28.  Speaking on debt and sustainability, the President asked for a system that was fair to everyone and not one that depicted the analogy of ‘Animal Farm’. He reiterated that Africa had the solution to climate change in the world because of its plenty and available renewable resources.

The MYCM had various open and closed meetings happening concurrently. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 43rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, Cabinet Secretary of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, Dr Alfred Mutua, noted that Africa contributed 30% of the world’s natural resources yet it remained poor. To achieve prosperity, he called for cross-border trade and consolidation of markets with the free movement of people across borders. Dr Mutua noted that Kenya was progressively working towards the abolishment of visa requirements for citizens from African Union member states to improve its trade, investment and tourism sectors. Comoros is the most recent country to have agreed to waive visa requirements for Kenyan citizens and vice versa by the end of the year.

Speaking on the rising cases of conflicts and terrorism, Dr Mutua noted that Kenya was committed to the Silencing the Guns initiative and was spearheading the ‘Nairobi Process’ that was seeking to bring an end to hostilities in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). To this end, the Cabinet Secretary noted that Kenya had deployed its defence forces for peacekeeping and enforcement measures.

While the MYCM took place in Kenya, the 15th US-Africa Business Summit took place at Gaborone in Botswana. The theme of the US-Africa Business Summit was ‘Enhancing Africa’s Value in Global Value Chains’. While the Summit might seem to contradict the MYCM, it actually strengthens the need for accelerated implementation of AfCFTA. Africa can merge as a one market value chain source for global manufacturing especially with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) coming to an end soon in 2025. New negotiations between governments, private sectors and the US will play a critical role in ensuring a conducive environment for economic growth.

However, such partnerships should be approached with caution noting that some policies, if not well negotiated or conditions attached, could undermine either the accelerated implementation of AfCFTA or enhance Africa’s value in the global value chain, and benefit the US more. Speaking with one voice through the AfCFTA and regional economic communities, Africa can prevent disguised forms of colonisation because creating regional and continental linkages lead to new possibilities for growth and job creation.

The two annual summits offer a world of endless opportunities for the African continent. Both look towards self-reliance at face value. However, to avoid throwing caution to the wind, government and private sector-led-US partnerships should be critically examined to establish the desired objectives with Africa’s interest in mind. Moreso for Kenya which can greatly benefit from an enhanced value chain for its exports to the US and which has come out strongly in the international arena advocating for self-reliance on new funding systems of different programmes.