I want to thank President Ramaphosa for convening this extraordinary summit to finalise the African Continental Free Trade Area. Less than three years after it was signed in Kigali, we are ready for the start of trading on 1 January 2021.

I wish to congratulate the African Ministers of Trade, the African Union Commission, and the new AfCFTA Secretariat for successfully overseeing the technical negotiations. The remaining negotiations should be completed as soon as possible in order to maximise the benefits of higher trade volumes for all of us.

The African Continental Free Trade Area will always be associated with the name of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, who has led this process on behalf of the Assembly. Mr President, I record my thanks for your outstanding contributions.

Of course, this is a collective achievement which could not have happened without the strong support of the African Heads of State and Government, who have remained steadfast throughout the journey. This level of commitment will continue to be necessary to sustain the agreement and make it successful.

I also welcome Wamkele Mene as Secretary-General of the Secretariat and wish him every success in carrying out his critically important duties.

The Continental Free Trade Area is the lifeblood of our continent’s integration and prosperity. It will also be the primary portal through which Africa engages with its partners around the world on trade and investment. We must therefore work together continuously to protect and strengthen this pact for the sake of the generations that follow us.

I thank you, Mr Chairperson.