By Temitope Ponle
Abuja, – Ghana has solicited the support of ECOWAS to host the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) in its capital, Accra, when the agreement comes into force.
Mrs Shirley Botchwey, Ghanaian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, made the request at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament Delocalised Joint Committee Meeting in Accra, Ghana.
AfCFTA is a planned free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 49 of the 55 African Union nations.
The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.
The CFTA will bring together 54 African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than $3.4 trillion dollars.
The first countries to ratify the agreement were Kenya and Ghana, while Gambia was signed ratified the agreement on April 2, making it the most recent country to do so.
This makes it the 22nd country to meet the threshold for the free trade area to formally exist.
The trade agreement is, reportedly, set to become operational a month after the required number of endorsements are deposited with the AU and Nigeria, Benin and Eritrea are yet to ratify the agreement.
The agreement also seeks to create the largest trade zone in the world, increase trade among African countries by 52 per cent and remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods.
If the agreement comes into force, the secretariat will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the agreement and shall be an autonomous body within the AU system and the Council of Ministers responsible for trade will decide on the location of the headquarters, structure, role and responsibilities.
Ghanaian foreign minister, however, argued that Ghana deserved to host the AfCTA secretariat because the country had committed so much to the unity of Africa since its independence.
“Our Government has decided to and has, indeed, formally expressed its interest to have Ghana host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), here in Accra.
“We are of the firm belief that Ghana’s history and credentials on Pan-Africanism, and her continuous commitment to the ideals and values of the African Union will make her to qualify as a worthy Member State of the African Union to host the Secretariat.
“I wish, therefore, to seize this opportunity to request all of you to use your good offices to support Ghana’s candidature in your respective capitals,” Botchwey said.
She recalled the important roles the country the country had played in the establishment of the defunct Organisation of African Union adding that the country did not play host to any AU organ.
Botchwey also reinforced the country’s commitment to the African Integration Agenda.
“I trust that we can count on your full support and the support of your countries for the success of our bid,” she said.