Allow me to start by thanking our host, President Mohamed Bazoum, and the people of Niger, for the warm welcome and hospitality in Niamey.

I commend the African Union Commission, and all partners, for the initiative of this summit. Let me from the outset thank in particular the African financial institutions and UNIDO present here. Your support will be essential as we move forward with this agenda.

The pace of industrialization in Africa remains too slow to achieve Africa’s development goals under Agenda 2063. We need to invest more of our national budgets in industrial policy, and significantly increase energy and infrastructure capacity. We must also build stronger links between our universities and the private sector, to promote a culture of innovation that includes our young people.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is an important new industrial sector for Africa, and I commend the African Union Commission, along with Africa CDC, the African Development Bank, Afreximbank, and many other partners, for their support and for the good results achieved so far.

I also thank the Commission for the support being extended to Rwanda, as host of the African Medicines Agency, to operationalize the headquarters, as quickly as possible.

The most important tool we have to speed up industrial development in Africa is the Continental Free Trade Area. In the second half of our summit, we will consider important decisions on the operationalization of our trade pact.

We will hear a report by His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou on the developments to date. I commend His Excellency for his years of historic service as our Champion for the Continental Free Trade Area. His work has had a tremendous impact.

I congratulate Secretary-General Wamkele Mene, and his team, for the good progress so far made. Every year, more countries are depositing their instruments of ratification. It is a sign that we are on the right track.

To create impact, however, we need to move forward in unison, and with a sense of urgency. It is important to finalize the remaining protocols and schedules of commitments.

Times have changed, and the economic unity of our continent is more important than ever. We have not come this far, to slow down. Time and time again, we are reminded of the importance of working together. No one can make it alone. That is what we need to do in the coming months to fully realize the potential of this historic agreement, and of our great continent.

I will not have to repeat the disturbing status of our continent’s industrialization and pace thereof. President Mohamed Bazoum has very eloquently laid it all out to us already.

We have a choice to make. The future is in our hands. Let’s go ahead and make the right choice.

I thank you for kind attention.