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Statement delivered by Gabriel Negatu, Director General, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office, on behalf of Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank - Kigali, March 21, 2018

On the Occasion of the Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area

Your Excellency, President Paul Kagame, Chairman of the African Union

Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,

Your Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson African Union Commission,

Honorable Commissioners, Ministers, Ambassadors

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, Africa celebrates a major milestone, with the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). We have risen to the challenge and we are on our way!

I wish to specially thank the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa, the negotiators, and the CFTA Champion, H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of the Republic of Niger, for doing an excellent job in making this historic moment a reality for Africa.

The African Development Bank – your Bank – celebrates with Africa and pledges its full support to achieve the success of the Continental Free Trade Area, as part of our strategy to help integrate Africa.

The Continental Free Trade area will stimulate intra-African trade by up to $35 billion per year, creating a 52% increase in trade by 2022; and a vital $10 billion decrease in imports from outside Africa.

This is Africa's time and Africa can no longer be ignored. Africa's food and agriculture market will hit $1 trillion by 2030. Household consumption will hit $2.5 trillion, with business-to-business expenditure at $3.5 trillion by 2025. There's no doubt, Africa is where to invest.

Regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank, which is accelerating the full implementation of the High 5s, in particular ‘Integrate Africa’.

Free trade will bring collective benefits and shared wealth for all African nations, especially the landlocked countries. So, we must accelerate investments in regional and national infrastructure, especially, to boost connectivity, reduce costs and raise competitiveness.

That is why infrastructure features prominently in the Bank’s High 5 priorities: ports, roads, aviation, railways and ICT connectivity projects ensure no country is left behind in our efforts connect Africa's 54 countries into a mutually profitable free trade area.

In the last five years, the Bank’s commitments to infrastructure have totaled more than $12 billion, mostly in cross-border transport, energy, finance and ICT connectivity.

We have worked closely with our partners to identify and undertake regional infrastructure projects under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) with a $10 million grant.

To accelerate trade facilitation, the Bank has invested more than $20 million over the past five years in trade agreement support, and cross-border transport and energy soft infrastructure.

The African Development Bank will be with you all on this exciting free trade journey. We will continue to invest in our High 5s to Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Integrate Africa; Industrialize Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

As shown by the United Nations, implementing these High 5s will allow Africa to achieve almost 90% of the SDGs and Agenda 2063, and that's the end goal.

Achieving universal electricity access, turning agriculture into a business for wealth creation, fast tracking industrialization and regional integration, and investments in building financial markets, skills and human capital, will all help Africa to take advantage of the Continental Free Trade Area. Only then can the Continental Free Trade Area unlock economic opportunities and jobs for hundreds of millions of Africa's youth.

The African Development Bank, therefore, hereby commits to support the building of the institutional and human capacities of the Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.

Africa is open for business. The days of aid are over. We are now on a highway to boosting Africa's prosperity, through greater trade and investments "without borders" among our nations.

Now, let Africa arise and thrive through the Continental Free Trade Area!!

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