Abuja, June 18, 2023: Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said it is imperative for leaders to ensure the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
Jonathan made the call in a speech he delivered at the 2nd Kenneth Kaunda Memorial Public Lecture on Saturday in Pretoria, South Africa, titled ‘Kenneth Kaunda’s Lessons For Humanity’.
Kaunda was the first President of Zambia who served from 1964 to 1991, and died in June 17, 2021.
Jonathan on Sunday described AfCFTA as an ambitious economic blueprint that offered great possibilities for Africa continent’s quest for economic self-sufficiency.
Jonathan recalled how 60 years ago, African leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to chart a way forward towards the complete freedom of African territories and build a consensus for a common African platform with which to attain its shared objectives of peace, unity and development.
Jonathan described formation of the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU), as the product of that endeavour.
He, however, said that 60 years after the first Pan-Africanist multilateral institution was formed, the continent needed to remobilise itself as a people to confront its contemporary problems.
“We need to demonstrate solidarity to address our shared problems of insecurity, poverty, and unity among our people.
“It is time to forge partnerships across the continent that will guarantee unity and enhance its developmental prospects.
“It is within this context that the advocacy for the full implementation of the AfCFTA becomes very imperative.”
Jonathan said that the need to chart a way forward towards attaining economic freedom for African territories could not be overemphasised.
He added that building and strengthening a common African market would help Africans attain their shared objective of peace, unity, prosperity and development.
“The initiative offers the prospect of eliminating some of the artificial political and commercial boundaries and barriers created by the colonialists that have, over the years, impacted the unity and growth of Africa.
“AfCFTA, an African Union initiative, is considered the world’s largest free trade area bringing together the 55 countries of the AU and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to create a single market for the continent.
“All stakeholders must wholeheartedly commit to and work towards implementing AfCFTA to leverage the economic prospects within our continent towards mutual prosperity and progress.
“AfCFTA, when fully implemented, would connect millions of Africans across the continent and foster unity and trade among the people.
“It is an ambitious economic blueprint that offers great possibilities for our continent’s quest for economic self-sufficiency.”
He, however, said that to make AfCFTA a reality, sustainable and of maximum benefit to Africa, the continent leaders needed to address Africa’s infrastructure gaps especially transportation, air and rail networks, in order to ensure easy movement of goods and services within the continent.
“Also our leaders need to work towards having a common medium of exchange to better optimise the gains of AfCFTA in the long term.
“More than ever, we need to demonstrate solidarity towards leveraging the benefits of this initiative for the good of our people. Through unity and cooperation, we can build a prosperous and united continent,” Jonathan said.
Also speaking on “Good Governance and Stability of African States” Jonathan urged African leaders to harness some of the virtues of leaders such as Kaunda to address some of the contemporary challenges facing the continent.
The former Nigeria president said that currently, there were major conflicts and undemocratic governments in a number of African States including Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, Chad, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso as well as tensions and attempted coup d’etat in a number of others.
“As Africans, we must ask ourselves what is the cause of all these crises.”
Jonathan said that scholars may adduce a number of reasons but three were clearly outstanding: greed, tribalism/ nepotism and incompetent leadership.
“Nation-building is often described as a marathon, a process that requires the active participation of every citizen to contribute to the fulfilment of the shared dream of the community.
“This assertion is true in the light of our lived reality as Africans as a continent that is confronted with many developmental issues. Citizens need peace, justice, and security.
“They want to be shielded from hunger, poverty, and deprivation.
“Citizens want accountable leadership, a system of government that guarantees their basic rights.
“We need to harness some of the virtues of leaders like Kaunda to solve some of our contemporary challenges,” he said.
Jonathan added that today, the major issues confronting Africa continent were insecurity, disunity, poverty, climate change, and poor governance.
He said that leadership has become a major source of conflicts and wars in most of Africa countries.
“The leadership recruitment process and our inability to effectively manage political transitions have resulted in avoidable conflicts.
“Elections in some countries have become a source of instability, largely reflecting the kind of leaders we have in authority.
“My charge to my fellow brothers and sisters in the continent is for us to seek to redefine leadership and governance in the continent.
“We need a leadership process that guarantees the fundamental freedoms and rights of the citizens and delivers a good life to them.
“We need to build and protect our political systems to serve the best interest of our people. We must learn how to manage our diversity and build an inclusive society,” he said.
Jonathan described late Kaunda as a man larger than life and a man that would forever remain one of the Africa continent’s towering heroes.
He said that Kaunda served his people as a humble giant, and gave tangible support to liberation movements across Southern Africa.
“He proved so committed to the liberation struggle of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia that he allowed them to establish their headquarters in Zambia, which put his own people at risk given the violent retaliation and destabilisation campaign of the apartheid regime.”
He described Kaunda as a specimen of the highest level of patriotism, a strong promoter of Pan-Africanism, an idea that has now attained maturity with the realisation of the AfCFTA.
“Kaunda’s life was a pattern of good works, and his post Presidential humanitarian work of providing relief for HIV/AIDS patients and promoting practices and measures to curb the spread of the virus will ever be remembered,” Jonathan said.