Yesterday, August 15 2019, over 80 people from 30 African countries gathered in Kigali, the Rwandan capital to discuss the creation of a solid framework to guarantee the success of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA)
The AFCFTA is a trade agreement signed by all 54 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018. It entered its operational phase on 7 July, 2019 at a summit in Niger. The goal is to unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, remove 90% of tariff on goods across the continent, and heat up commerce within the continent itself.
According to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, “The success of the AFCFTA will be the real test to achieve the economic growth that will turn our people’s dream of welfare and quality of life into a reality”
On day one of the two-day summit held at the Co-creation Hub’s Design Lab, industry leaders in the technology and creative ecosystems were in attendance. The choice of Kigali as the location is significant, as it was there in March 2018 that almost 50 countries signed the AFCFTA agreement.
In an interview with TechCabal last week, Bosun Tijani, the founder of CcHub, said, “the aim of the meet-up is to come together as dual industries to iron out details and make a concerted effort to ensure readiness ahead of the July 2020 flag-off.”
The opening address was given by Tijani where he urged participants to seize what could be a momentous moment in African history, before going on to introduce the panellists for the first session. The panellists were Vuyisa Qabaka of South Africa, Simeon Umukori, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, and Ojoma Ochai of Nigeria, and Norbert Haguma from Rwanda.
The topics discussed by the panel ranged from what it means to be African, the various issues that need to be tackled for the success of AFCFTA, to the role of governments across Africa.
The outstanding moment of the panel occurred when Aboyeji, of Andela and Flutterwave, said young people need to take matters into their own hands and not wait for government intervention. According to him, “This is a grassroots movement. If we wait for the government, the agreement won’t work. We’ll wait forever.”
After the panel, Oby Ezekwesili, a one-time education minister in Nigeria and former World Bank Vice President gave a keynote speech.
In a tweet yesterday, she said, “Rewarding time in Kigali today! I spoke @bosuntijani -led Ecosystem meetup that ‘kick-starts opportunities to demonstrate immediate value of the free trade agreement in a short space of time, while building significant businesses that can create unprecedented value’.”
In her speech, she was full of praise for the spirit of can-do possessed by African youth who organised the meet-up, saying that the success of the AFCTCA depends largely on the younger generation.
Following this, the head of TRwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi spoke of Rwanda’s commitment to being a haven for ideas, strategically placing itself as a proof of concept nation”
After her speech, the participants were allowed to split into two groups to work on effective communication strategies to be deployed, and how to interact with African government to formulate policies as regards the AFCFTA.
The meet-up continues today.