Alieu Secka

The chief executive officer of Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Alieu Secka, welcomed the signing of the free trade agreement by 44 African countries during the just concluded African Union extra-ordinary summit held from March 20-22 in Kigali, Rwanda.

“We welcome very much the continental free trade agreement,” Alieu Secka told this reporter in an exclusive interview.

The African continent is charting path towards greater economic integration as the Kigali Summit endorsed a ground breaking agreement geared towards achieving a single market. The move is expected to fast track economic growth through job creations, and is seen by many observers as one of the biggest trade agreement since the birth of
the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Secka deplored the fact that Africa has been very slow in moving towards a free trade deal, arguing that the European Union ( EU) is greatly benefitting from the free trade area for nearly 14 years.

“Trade between European countries has increased in value by about 50 per cent while Africa continues to struggle around 12 per cent due to fragmentation. One can imagine the huge opportunity the Kigali agreement will provide to the business sector,” he said.

GCCI boss expressed hope that African leaders will go beyond solemn declaration, and commit themselves vigorously to the implementation of the necessary protocols.

“Once we have free trade, barriers are removed,” he said “We still need government to remove what we call ‘non-trade barriers’,” he added.

He then further indicated that this includes bottlenecks, unnecessary licenses as well as corruption and other vices that Africans experience in trade among our countries.

When asked whether the ‘sovereignty’ of our various states could also be a major obstacle to implementing the continental free trade deal, he responded in the affirmative.

“One of the biggest challenges that we face is the border controls people continue to experience between Gambia and Senegal. It’s ridiculous!” he deplored.

Secka said our countries should be ready to move towards a greater space that would help to boost trade and employment.

“In Europe, despite the challenges of terrorism, free movement of people has become a reality. In Africa, it has always been a dream that was never realized,” he added.

He said if Africans are able to trade our natural resources among countries, this would ensure value addition, and generate substantial amounts to a country’s wealth.

Written by Abdoulie JOHN