Midrand, South Africa: The Pan-African Parliament concluded its two-day workshop on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) yesterday, 23 May 2023. The workshop which took place on the sidelines of the ongoing Second Session of the Sixth Parliament was aimed at devising strategies to accelerate continental free trade on the continent.
Hon. McHenry Venaani, Deputy Chairperson of the Pan-African Parliament Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration implored on African governments to improve their infrastructure, rail networks and ports in order to enable Africa to trade with each other. Hon. Venaani highlighted the need for sufficient resources and finances that would enable a flourishing trade and industry for the benefit of Africa. “As MPs, we need to cascade to the basics, we need to ignite a debate in our own countries in terms of infrastructure development. We need to track where we are in terms of protocols that make it difficult for us to trade amongst one another and find common solutions to them. Members of Parliament must seriously track the development of legislation and protocols that impact the realization of the AfCFTA”, noted the Pan-African Parliament Member.
To this end, Hon. Venaani called on Parliaments to pronounce timelines in which targets should be met so that MPs and Parliaments hold each other accountable. He said it was time for MPs to think legislatively and the Pan-African Parliament, as a legislative organ of the continent, to monitor those time frames. He further stressed the need for the monitoring of trade deals, more especially now with the discovery of oil on the continent. “The complex matter of the AfCFTA is the fact that there lies more political questions that need to be unbundled than economic questions. The information on the AfCFTA is predominantly only known by us politicians and as long as this is the status quo, there is a misconnection with the populace. This is our starting point, we need to take the populace along with us, leaving no one behind,” said Venaani. Furthermore, the Member of Parliament highlighted that industrialization would not be realized without agriculture and for agricultural modernization to succeed, there is a need for value chains to be added and strengthened across this sector.
The workshop concluded with a clear understanding by Pan-African Parliamentarians of what is required of them to ensure the successful implementation of the AfCFTA. Closing the two-day workshop, fourth Vice President of the PAP, Hon. Francois Ango Ndoutoume, said that while the continent has many challenges, “What we may see as Africa’s weaknesses today, will grow to be its strengths tomorrow.” Going forward, the re-iterated aim of the AfCFTA is to encourage fair trade competition to promote industrial relations, investment and movements of goods, products and people on the African continent and that it will encourage commerce, business and help in the eradication of poverty on the continent. The PAP must thus play a crucial role towards the realisation of the continental integration through the AfCFTA. To attain this, it is crucial that that all member states ratify the AfCFTA agreement to participate in intra-African trade. Parliamentarians agreed that there needs to be one currency for Africa to allow for fairness in trade, instead of using European or American currency to trade on the continent.
The AfCFTA is a flagship project of the AU’s Agenda 2063 which aspires to transform the African continent into a future powerhouse. Hon. Venaani was speaking as Panel Member on a session dissecting Pan-African Parliament Strategies towards accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA alongside other speakers including Hon. Amos Masondo, representing the PAP Southern African Caucus, Hon. Alhagie Mbow, Chairperson of the PAP West African Caucus, Hon. Terrence Mondon, Chairperson of PAP East African Caucus and Hon. Jaynet Kabiila, Chairperson of PAP Central African Caucus.