Leaders discuss a single market for Africa and the need for peace and stability

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African Heads of State attending the 50th African Development Bank Annual Meetings in Abidjan committed on Tuesday, May 26 to supporting policies that can fast-track the continent’s efforts towards attaining a fully fledged single common market for Africa to transform the lives of their people.

The Heads of State included Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Benin’s Thomas Boni Yayi, Gabon’s Ali Bongo Ondimba, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Prime Minister Augustine Matata Ponyo.

A single market for Africa was one of the themes for discussion on Day 2 of the AfDB Annual Meetings that runs from Monday to Friday. The leaders were part of a high-level panel titled “Presidential Forum on a Single Market for Africa” that offered insights into how the continent can move faster towards full integration.

In their submissions, the leaders observed that although a single market for Africa sounds like a dream, it’s one that can come true in their lifetime if peace on the continent was allowed to prevail.

Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf said the continent’s leaders should invest more in infrastructure to connect countries and give a lifeline to the private sector to thrive. She also called for investment in skills and capacity building for Africa’s young population.

“Development is a gradual process and we build upon the stages created over time to move forward,” said President Sirleaf, adding that African leaders must collaborate to end wars that are ravaging the continent.

Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi concurred with his Liberian counterpart when he said that African leaders today have no choice but strive for peace and work on things that benefit all Africans.

“We have reached a stage where we have no choice but to unite for peace, build infrastructure for our countries’ interconnectivity which would bring our nations and peoples closer,” he said, adding that infrastructure for energy and transport are the two main elephants in the room.

President Ali Bongo of Gabon also stated that without stability on the continent, nothing can be achieved.

“Peace around the continent is the overriding factor. We must give peace a chance to prevail if a single market for Africa is to be a reality,” said President Ali Bongo.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said the onus was upon the leaders to ensure the commitments to peace and development endure. “It’s our responsibility. We must remove barriers to trade such as visa rules among African countries that restrict the free movement of Africans on the continent to trade with each other,” he said.

Augustine Matata Ponyo of the DRC said the dream for a single market for Africa must start from inside the African countries: “We must integrate our countries first before we can move on to the Africa wide integration.” 

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama while in agreement with his counterparts on the need to have peace and stability as a means of enhancing integration efforts, also suggested how it could be done: through participatory integration that allows every African to play a role.

“That way, we can avoid or reduce the risk of people that might want to burn the place down because they feel they’re not being included,” he cautioned.

Mahama also challenged AfDB to take the centre-stage in the campaign for a single market for Africa arguing that the Bank has managed to transform itself into a respected institution of the continent and it was ready to take on such serious responsibilities.

“It’s now time for AfDB to now transform the continent that gave birth to it, through funding Africa’s integration agenda” Mahama challenged.

The “Presidential Forum on a Single Market for Africa” was opened by Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, who said the continent has the numbers to sustain a robust market for intra-Africa trade.

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