By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – The Namibian President Hage Geingob has successfully concluded a working visit to Rwanda and Niger, where he attended the 12thExtraordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly in Niamey. The session coincided with the inaugural Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) held from 7-8 July 2019 in Niger’s capital.
President Geingob delivered a statement at the meeting in his capacity as Chairperson of SADC. In his address, the Namibian leader highlighted the achievements made by member states towards regional integration, which include the establishment in 2008 of the SADC Free-Trade Area (FTA), increasing trade in the region from 16% to 22%.
He informed the gathering that SADC had made significant strides in the development of roads and ports that further facilitates trade and promotes economic growth in the region. Applauding the inaugural meeting.
“This AU-REC coordination meeting, therefore, allows us to take a critical look at the progress made in implementing and meeting the objectives of our integration agenda, and provides us with a unique opportunity to take stock of our synergies with the AU Agenda and programmes. I am confident that we will learn from each other, and be able to chart our way forward in positioning ourselves to meet the Continental Agenda,” said the Namibian leader.
The 12th Extraordinary Session served as the formal launch of the entry into force of the African Continental Free-Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 30 May 2019.
So far, 27 countries have ratified the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, and 54 have signed the agreement.
Trading between African countries under the AfCFTA will commence on 1 July 2020, while Phase Two of the AfCFTA Negotiations on Investment Policy, Competition Policy, and Intellectual Property Rights are set to be concluded in December 2020.
Namibia ratified the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA in February 2019, which paved the way for the Namibian private sector and SMEs to fully participate in intra-Africa trade by taking advantage of the AfCFTA.
The First Mid-Year Coordination meeting discussed the the status of integration in Africa and started preliminary discussions on the division of labour between the AU and RECs with a view to avoiding duplication and overlapping mandates.
Before travelling to Niger Geingob participated at the invitation of President Paul Kagame in the Celebrations of Liberation Day of Rwanda on 4 July. During the visit, the two leaders held several discussions, focusing on bilateral ties, regional integration and international affairs.
In a solemn ceremony on 5 July, President Geingob laid a wreath at the Kigali Memorial Centre.
He stressed unity as a precondition for socio-economic progress in Africa cautioned strongly against tribalism and racism as ills that had no place in society.
“Tribalism and racism are the same things because both involve hatred towards other people”, President Geingob warned, while commendingRwanda for the remarkable progress the country had made since the Genocide 25 years ago.