Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), has saluted President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for making a strong and legitimate case for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat in Accra.
This included the Government contributing financial resources to ensure that the AfCFTA Secretariat was built.
Mr Mahamat gave the commendation when President Akufo-Addo commissioned the Secretariat building and handed it over to the AUC.
He (Mahamat) also paid special tribute to President Issoufou Mohamaddou of Niger and Champion of the flagship AfCFTA project.
Mr Mahamat said President Mohamaddou's strong and sustained advocacy oversaw the fastest ratification and entry into force of an AU instrument, second only to that of the AU Constitutive Act; adding; "Merci Monsieur le Président!"
He expressed gratitude to the unfailing support and leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Chair of African Union (AU), who made the operationalisation of the AfCFTA a priority during his tenure.
"Indeed, today marks a historic milestone in the road to fulfill the vision of our Founding Fathers for Continental Integration, that dates back to the inaugural session of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, articulated most strongly by then President Kwame Nkrumah in his landmark speech," Mr Mahamat said.
"We stand here today despite a global Covid-19 pandemic that has caused major disruptions to global trade and the movement of goods and people."
It was, therefore, fitting that the Secretariat had its home in Accra, he said.
Mr Mahamat said Ghana was a historical trading centre for gold, cocoa and timber among other valuable goods and remained an important centre of commerce on the Continent and beyond.
"Accra is also, and has always been, a guardian of our collective Pan African memory, not only as a home of thought but also as a port of safety and freedom for fellow Africans fleeing persecution, and for people of African descent seeking refuge or simply coming back home."
He said while the operationalisation of the Secretariat was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the same pandemic had also magnified the urgent need to accelerate economic integration on the Continent.
The crisis with its negative impact on trade and the multilateral system, was also an opportunity to rethink the value chains and reduce the reliance on traditional supply routes, he said.
"To ensure we can absorb the negative impacts of future pandemics, we must integrate our markets, accelerate industrial development, enhance competitiveness to ensure a prosperous, peaceful and integrated future for our people," Mr Mahamat stated.
"When Covid-19 hit, Africa took strong and early action, to the surprise of many,” adding that AU agency for public health emergencies was ably coordinating the continental response.
"It is this same spirit of unity that has brought us here..., to this physical manifestation of a key economic Pan African agenda that will be led by Mr Wamkele Mwene, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA, whose vast experience, vision and competence belies his relative youth.”
"Congratulations and I’m sure you will take care of this beautiful headquarters!"