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ED, AU leaders to sign continental treaty

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ED, AU leaders to sign continental treaty President Mnangagwa flanked by former African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka at a business forum in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday

Lincoln Towindo in KIGALI, Rwanda
President Mnangagwa will today join fellow African leaders here for the signing and launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement during the African Union (AU) Extraordinary Session of Heads of State and Government.

He will be among leaders who will sign the continental agreement, marking the creation of the largest free trade area since the founding of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995.

President Mnangagwa was yesterday doubly commended by former Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo for managing a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe in the wake of the resignation of Mr Robert Mugabe on November 21 last year and for quickly responding to the call for the launch of the AfCTA.

Contributing during the AfCTA Business Summit, Gen Obasanjo urged President Mnangagwa to keep the country moving.

“President of Zimbabwe, I want to give you double congratulation: Congratulation for the way you carried out the transition in your country.

“I must say more than that, but you have told the world more than that, that the country is moving on. Please, keep the country moving on; that is very important for us. And I also want to congratulate you for your being here.”

President Mnangagwa participated during a panel discussion during the business meeting.

He was joined on the stage by Dr Donald Kaberuka (immediate-past president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and AU high representative for the Peace Fund), Ali Mufuruki (chairman and chief executive of Infotech Group, Tanzania), Tonye Cole (co-founder of Sahara Group) and Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun (president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises) during the mid-morning session.

The panel debated a topic on how the private sector and policymakers could work together for the evolution of a mutually beneficial free trade area.

Contributing during the panel discussion, President Mnangagwa described the AfCTA agreement as historic.

“In order to move forward, we need to understand that each arm of government or society is useful,” he said.

“We should not, anymore, look upon these organisations (civil society) as detrimental to progress; they help us in the entrenching of our democracies in our respective countries.

“We all have a role to play and to do so, there must continuously be a platform where we exchange views, dialogue and agree on the roadmap to move forward.

“This agreement, the AfCTA that we are going to sign tomorrow, is a landmark agreement that brings together all the 55 countries to participate in market of over 1,2 billion people.

“We have Africa which requires clean water, and I have no doubt that Africa as a continent has the capacity to provide clean water four our people.

“Africa needs food security and I have no doubt Africa has the capacity to provide food security in every single African country.

“And to achieve this we need cooperation and dialogue.”

Later in the afternoon, President Mnangagwa had a brief meeting with the senior management from Rwanda Development Board, who were led by chief operations officer, Ms Clare Akamanzi.

Later in the evening, he met with a delegation from General Electric, an American company specialising in infrastructure, aviation, energy and health.

The delegation was led by Mr Jay Ireland, who heads the African division.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Ireland said: “We were looking at what kind of work we can do in Zimbabwe, particularly to help with the infrastructure capabilities of the country. We are into the power, healthcare, oil and gas transportation and aircraft engines.”

AfCFTA is a flagship project consummated under Agenda 2063, the AU’s long-term vision for an integrated and prosperous continent.

The decision to create AfCTA was adopted in 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The ambitious treaty, once ratified, will create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspersons and investments, paving the way for the establishment of a Continental Customs Union.

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