The African continent this week marked the African integration Day commemorations virtually, an annual event which is meant to celebrate, disseminate and galvanise Africans towards a united Africa as envisioned by the continent’s founding fathers.
According to a statement released by the African Union yesterday, the commemoration of the Africa Integration Day was held under the theme, COVID-19: The Road ahead for African Trade, Economic Integration and Growth is meant to celebrate the progress made in the implementation of the regional integration protocols.
“The main objective of the commemorations is to celebrate the progress made in the implementation of the African Integration Agenda including the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its achievements,” read the statement.
According to the AU statement, the commemorations also aims at raising awareness, change the mindsets of Africans on the issues of integration including the objectives, challenges and implementations of the protocols.
“Disseminate and popularise the importance and challenges of regional integration in Africa including the status of Regional Integration in Africa and the progress made in AfCFTA and create a new positive mindset both on the continent and in the Diaspora,”
The commemorations also aimed at galvanising and mobilising Africans within the continent and abroad around the subsequent steps towards the accelerated and full operationalization of the ideals and objectives envisioned in the eventual realization of the Establishment of the African Economic Community as envisaged in the Abuja Treaty of 1991 and the subsequent Sirte Declaration of 1999.
The Abuja Treaty, signed in 1991, lays the groundwork for the creation of African Economic Community (AEC), whereby the economies of the member states of the AU will be fully integrated and an African Economic Community created. The goal of the AEC is to transform the fifty-five (55) African economies into a single economic and monetary union, with a common currency and free mobility of capital and labour.
The Sirte Declaration, signed in 1999, and the Constitutive Act of the African Union aim at fast-tracking Africa’s integration through the creation of key institutions such as the African Central Bank, an African Monetary Fund, an African Investment Bank, the African Court of Justice and the Pan-African Parliament. Currently on the Pan African Parliament and the African Court of Justice are operational.
This year’s commemorations were held against the background of the COVID 19 pandemic which has reigned havoc on the continent which has slowed down the economic growth of most African countries and hence the integration agenda.
During the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019, AU Heads of States and Government decided that 7 July of each year be designated as “the Africa Integration Day” without it being a holiday to commemorate the operationalisation of the AfCFTA Agreement and popularise economic integration across the Continent as a lever of inclusive sustainable development.
While some progress has been achieved, the African Day commemorations must recognise significant bottlenecks stand in the way of deeper integration, including narrow markets, poor infrastructure networks, cumbersome administrative procedures that impede trade integration, in diversified production bases coupled with weak backward and forward linkages between agriculture and industry, as well as weak institutional and legal mechanisms for implementing regional and continental programmes and projects.
In addition, the reluctance of member states to cede sovereignty to key organs of the African Union stands in the way of accelerated African integration. Thus the African leaders are challenged to do more in order to achieve agenda 2063 and unite Africa as captured by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, then President of the Republic of Ghana and one of the Founding Fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) forcefully put in a monumental piece, “Africa Must Unite.” – The African Conversations