August 27, 2023

AfCFTA: Traditional institution, key to successful implementation —Akwara

AfCFTA: Traditional institution, key to successful implementation —Akwara

By Tunde Oso

Multiple award-winning filmmaker and producer, David Akwara has made the case for the involvement of royal fathers and traditional institutions in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

Akwara, who is the director of a Pan African documentary series, titled, “The Rise: A Journey to Africa’s Financial Independence,” which documents the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement, spoke at the AfCFTA Youth Symposium organized by African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat and the Republic of Zambia, in Lusaka, Zambia.

He noted that while over 47 countries, including Nigeria, have ratified the agreement, the traditional rulers who are the closest to the people seem to have been relegated to the back seat in the domestication of the agreement aimed at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market.

Raising his point during a presentation before the H.E Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat at the symposium, Akwara stated, “Every single one of us seated here belongs to a tribe and communities and we have kings and leaders of these communities. I will make special reference to the region where I come from. We have the Oba of Benin, the Orodje of Okpe, and the Olu of Warri Kingdom. These people are the closest to the African population that we talk about.”

He further noted, “The lands-the arable lands that are not cultivated, they are the ones closer to those lands because these lands are not in urban areas, and I have noticed that in our conferences and conversations, either at the national or secretariat level, I have not seen the royal fathers being part of this conversation and I think, as a young man who believes in the African tradition and a Christian who believes in the values of our African tradition, our Kings have been relegated to the back seat in this conversation.”

In his response, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, H.E Wamkele Mene, who was impressed with the point raised by the young African leader, assured the engagement of traditional leaders in the domestication of the AfCFTA agreement.

According to Wamkele, “What has evaded us as Africans is the integration of our continent, our market integration, and in the design of that integration project from the economic point of view, I think the point you made is correct, we have relied exclusively on neoclassical theories of the kind of integration we want to see. If you look at the Abuja Treaty, it sets out phases of Africa’s integration, a linear model of integration, and that again is a neoclassical model of how a region should integrate. 

“I will be the first to admit that even when we started negotiating, we have never consulted the traditional leaders. I don’t think it is too late for us to start the consultation process at the regional and national levels. We still have time to engage our traditional leaders so that the agreement that we will be implementing does have support across the different spheres of governance, whether it is formal government or at the provincial, national or district level.”

The Secretary-General further stated, “It is important that we engage them. But for now, the process is driven by the government because we have to have governments that are the ministers of trade, permanent secretaries, and so on who are leading the negotiations. It doesn’t however mean a country cannot by itself start engaging and begin consultations with traditional leaders in its own jurisdiction.”

David Akwara is a young Nigerian visionary filmmaker, an African Thought Leader, and the founder of David Akwara Films (DAF) which he established in 2019 as a leading Pan-African film production company specializing in documentaries, commercial and corporate films, as well as short films and web series.

Over the years, his films have been screened at over 70 international film festivals. David is passionate about economic development, and his core interest is in telling Developmental Stories. He was a panelist at the 2023 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum in New York, UN Headquarters, the United Nations Human Rights regional seminar, Kenya, 2021 African Changemakers Leadership Summit, Africa Youth Symposium, Women Lead Forum Tanzania, Envison Democracy Summit as well as APRM Youth Symposium.

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