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Free trade on the African continent promises to be a game changer for the youth

Free trade on the African continent promises to be a game changer for the youth

By Emma Inamutila Theofelus.

The African Union Summit brings together the leaders of all 55 member states to discuss issues facing the continent and chart a course for its future. The 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union convened from 18 to 19 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Assembly is the AU’s supreme policy and decision-making organ. It comprises all Member State Heads of State and Government. The Assembly determines the AU’s policies, establishes its priorities, adopts its annual programme, and monitors the implementation of its policies and decisions.

The first physically held summit since the COVID-19 pandemic was held under the theme “The Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation” and began with an opening ceremony attended by heads of state, government officials, and representatives of various international organizations. The keynote address was delivered by the President of Senegal, H.E. Macky Sall, outgoing Chairperson of the African Union.

The summit covered a wide range of topics, including institutional reforms, the state of peace and security in Africa, activities of the Peace and Security Council and the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa, Covid-19 pandemic, Agenda 2063, the African Continental Free Trade Area and climate change.

To contribute to the effective operationalization of the AfCFTA, this author proposes the introduction of a Pan-African payments system that allows the ease of money flow between African countries and thus extended to youth enterprises. Digital technology solutions are integral in achieving the Africa We Want by 2063.

After gaining independence from South Africa, Namibia became a member of the African Union in 1990. Since then, Namibia has been an active participant in the annual AU summits, contributing to the discussions and decisions that shape the future of the continent, in which she is an integral participatory member.

At the 36th African Union Summit, Namibia was represented by President Hage G. Geingob with an 8-member delegation, who attended several bilateral meetings with other heads of state and government officials.

Delegates to the Summit have an opportunity to engage their counterparts from other countries bilaterally to cement relationships and enhance collaboration. Namibian government officials also had an opportunity to canvass support for projects in Namibia from the AU structures, such as the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which already supports several projects in Namibia related to the fight against Covid-19 and other diseases such as cancer.

One of the major highlights for the Namibian delegation was the Committee of Ten meeting on the United Nations Security Council reforms, where President Geingob reiterated Namibia’s position on the need for Africa to be represented with at least two permanent seats on the UN Security Council. This meeting was particularly important because it speaks to Africa claiming its rightful place in the world and demanding for its voice to be heard among the most powerful nations who are currently on the UN Security Council. The significance of having a permanent seat is, primarily a recognition that Africa is a large and important role player in the global politics of this planet and thus deserves a seat on the UNSC. I mean Africa holds almost a quarter of this world’s population. Secondly, the African states will have veto power which allows them to block any resolution or decision, whatever the majority opinion within the Council. This will allow the African states power to oppose a decision that may adversely affect Africa and henceforth protect the interests of its entire people. Representation matters. A principle I believe runs core to the values of the United Nations. Values that many African states have subscribed to as members of the United Nations to date.

Another significant event for Namibia was the launch of the Africa Reach initiative whose council is chaired by H.E. Madam Monica Geingos. The Africa REACH initiative aims to bring together the most powerful elements of African political structures, cultural and religious influence, and generational leadership to create a new action agenda around ending AIDS in children and youth in Africa. The council consists of two members who are Namibians amongst others. This is a clear demonstration of Namibia’s capacity to provide leadership in Africa.

Namibia also participated in the meeting of The Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLAD) where First Lady, Madame Monica Geingos serves as Chairperson. The meeting discussed ways to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children, poverty, structural inequalities, and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Africa. Namibia has been a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, however paediatric HIV remains a serious issue in the country that needs to be systematically addressed through deliberate policies from the highest level; including the African Union in this instance.

The decisions taken at the AU Head of States Summit are expected to benefit Namibia in several ways. For example, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is expected to boost trade and investment on the continent, which could benefit Namibia’s export-oriented economy. Namibia has already begun to experience the benefits of free trade between African countries such as in the SADC region, where it will be bolstered by the agreement between Namibia and Botswana that allows cross-border movements using a national identification document (ID).

The discussions on climate change and COVID-19 are also important for Namibia, as the country is particularly vulnerable to the effects of both of these global challenges. It remains in the interest of Namibia for the country to actively contribute to the AU climate policies as they have an enormous impact on the livelihoods of citizens. Namibia’s climate interests also extend to resource mobilization for the country to manage and adapt to the effects of climate change. Right now, Namibia is experiencing floods in the northern regions whilst crops die due to a lack of rain in the fields of some of the households in the same regions. These are the effects of climate change. A conundrum of a double-edged sword.

In addition to these discussions, the African States demonstrated unity in their stance against Israel for the unlawful occupation of Palestine. The AU continues to demonstrate its disapproval of this situation and supports the liberation of Palestine from Israeli rule. Namibia at some point was also in the same position when it was under the rule of colonial apartheid South Africa from which Namibia was freed through a long and bitter struggle by its gallant sons and daughters and international diplomacy. Having such a painful past as ours, Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia often says that Namibia is a child of international solidarity, mid-wived by the United Nations. Therefore, Namibia cannot stand by and watch as the people of Palestine be denied their basic human dignity hence our collective support to the people of Palestine as they fight for their independence from the occupation of Israel.

In the same vein, the AU plays a fundamental role in dealing with conflicts in the region. A case in point is the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there is a need to calm tempers between the DRC and Rwanda and coordinate overlapping peace initiatives and support upcoming elections.

Overall, it is clear that Namibia is not an island and even islands need mainlands. Therefore, Namibia must be an active participant in AU matters to maximize Namibia’s benefits from the Union. AFRICA UNITED!

Emma Inamutila Theofelus is a Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister for Information and Communication Technology


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