November 7, 2020

Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has urged members of the sub-regional Community to take advantage of the benefits of establishment of the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) in an ECOWAS zone.

He made this remarks on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 in the Republic of Benin when he opened a joint delocalized committee of the ECOWAS Parliament on the theme, “African Continental Free Trade Area. How feasible in the face of cross-border threats: Terrorism and Insecurity, pandemics, protectionism”.

According to him it is gratifying that the Government of the Republic of Ghana generously offered to build the headquarters of AFCTA, which demonstrates a strong affirmation of the vision of an integrated Africa.
“This provides an even greater opportunity to explore the possibilities of having a region that practices trade in a free and secure manner”.

“Notwithstanding the benefits of free trade, there are visible threats which stall progress and create stumbling blocks to investments that in turn affect commerce and employment. Among these are terrorism and insecurity which increase uncertainty and raise the cost of goods and services”.

He added that, terrorism slows the flow of goods and resources through ports due to greater inspections and safeguard, and divert government expenditures from more productive public investment to less productive security activities.

In addition to terrorism, he pointed that ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

And beyond its impact on human health, the pandemic has disrupted an interconnected world economy. Since the emergence of the pandemic, there has been an abrupt fall in commodity prices, fiscal revenues, foreign exchange receipts, foreign financial flows, travel restrictions, a decline in tourism and hotels, and so on.

Also, border closures have reduced economic activities, and there are predictions of recession across the continent, he noted.

Speaker Tunis further noted that what was at stake was the dignity and well-being of African farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, particularly women and the youth; as free trade promise prosperity for all Africans, especially West Africans as it provides the prospect for a production of a value-added goods and services and increase the income and better living conditions of the citizens of the community.

And was of the hope that the meeting would enlighten the Community lawmakers as well as provide them with sufficient resources on the prospects of implementing the agreement.

The ECOWAS Parliament will also be acquainted on the role it should play in mitigating challenges and facilitating the application of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“I am optimistic that we will recover from the shackles of COVID-19 and our economies will grow stronger and better. The road to achieving this is not going to be smooth, but I am reminded of the great things we have achieved as a Community of People and I have no doubt, that this is achievable”.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/