By Bakary Ceesay
During the closed door session at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Head of States held in Niamey, Niger, on the 7th July 2019, President Adama Barrow focused his deliberation on the commitment of AU leaders in the implementation of the AfCFTA to transform their economies.
He expressed the urgency to work collectively to overcome the challenges and barriers that confront them. Crucial in this regard is the task of setting up all the right mechanisms and modalities. President Barrow said his government was considerate of the need to protect the domestic economy, stressing his government’s support the decision to have a regulation on goods coming from the Special Economic Zones.
The Gambia also supports the decision to modify the existing framework in order to achieve a harmonised Customs Union tariff schedule. This is based, however, on the condition that the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) would be compensated for having the same implementation transition period as non-LDCs.
During the Niamey 2019 AU Summit, Chaired by the Union’s Chairperson, H.E Adel Fatah El-Sisi, five instruments were launched. These were Rules of Origin, Operational Instrument, AfCFTA – online, reporting, monitoring mechanism platform, Pan African payment and settling services and the African Trade Observatory Dashboard.
The Gambia is amongst the countries that have signed and ratified the AfCFTA.
It signed the AfCFTA in 2018 in Kigali and was the 22nd member of the AU to ratify it this year, thus bringing it into force for implementation.
AU Chairman, Abdel Fatah El-Sisi called for a speedy implementation of their agreements guided by the AU roadmap, while urging member states to continue dialogue and consultations with the stakeholders, reaffirming that the Common market is an achievable dream. The Common African market has a potential of 1.3 billion people with combined GDP of nearly $3 trillion to boost its economic and social growth. It is expected to boost intra-regional trade, while also helping countries move away from mainly exporting raw materials and build manufacturing capacity to attract foreign investment.
The Niger Summit meeting is considered to have shown strong political will by African leaders to implementing the agreement that will remove tariffs between member countries. The President Niger, H.E. Muhamadou Issoufou is the Champion of the AfCFTA and host of the AU 12th Extra Ordinary Session. Ghana was selected to host the AfCFTA Secretariat.
On the Sidelines of the AU Summit in Niamey, President Barrow met several high level officials and discussed issues of mutual interest for the socio-economic development of the country. He held separate meetings with the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Ayodeji Adeseni, the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank, Dr Mansur Muhtar, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean Claude Kasse Brou, the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mahammed and the UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office in Addis Ababa, Hanna Tetteh.
The AU Summit was also momentous for The Gambia, with the Group of ECOWAS Ambassadors in Addis Ababa nominating Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow to represent the ECOWAS region in the Panel Of Eminent Persons that the African Union is setting up to screen and vet candidates for the senior leadership positions of the AU.