Parliament has approved an agreement between the African Union (AU) and the Government of Ghana (GoG) to host the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat (AfCFTA) in the country.
The host country's agreement was executed between the nation and the AU Commission on February 10, 2020 for the establishment of the Secretariat of the AfCFTA in Accra.
The agreement was laid in Parliament on June 3, 2020 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, in pursuant to Article 75(2) of the 1992 Constitution, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign and Affairs for consideration and report in accordance with Order 140(4) and 183 of the Standing Orders of the House.
The agreement establishing the AfCFTA was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU at its 10th Extraordinary Session on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.
At the 12th Extraordinary Session held on July 7, 2019 in Niamey, Niger and per its decision Ext/Assembly/A.U./Dec.2 (XII) of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, wherein the Assembly decided that Ghana should host the AfCFTA Secretariat.
The assembly further requested the commission, in collaboration with Ghana, to finalise the host country agreement following the Executive Council Decision Ex. CL/ 195(Vl) Rev. l of July 2005 on hosting Organs of the AU.
Key Provisions of the Agreement
Key provisions of the agreement include a definition section which sets forth certain terms and expressions and their meaning as pertains to the agreement, the host country shall provide at its own expense a secure, equipped and furnished permanent premises for the Secretariat.
The government shall provide a secured, equipped and furnished official residence for the head of the secretariat and shall guarantee the inviolability of the premises of the secretariat.
The secretariat shall freely purchase any currencies through authorized channels and hold and dispose of them, transfer its funds to or from the host country, and operate accounts in any currency.
It is also exempted from any direct or indirect taxes, except for charges and taxes on public utility services, including compulsory contributions to any social security scheme of the host country.
The Chairman of the Committee, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, said any dispute arising out of or in connection with the agreement, including any question regarding its validity or termination shall be resolved amicably through diplomatic channels.
He said the committee was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration worked closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other stakeholders in concluding the Host Country Agreement.
“Stakeholder consultations were organized to seek inputs before finalizing the agreement with the AU Commission. A working group was also constituted to review the agreement together with officials of the AU Commission,” he reported.
According to him, the committee was informed that the AfCFTA Secretary-General had been appointed by AU Heads of State and Government at the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly.
In addition, four directors are currently being recruited. The committee was informed that other essential staff for the secretariat would be seconded by the AU Commission and the member states.
Employment Opportunities for Ghanaians
Mr. Annoh-Dompreh, who is also the Member of Parliament for Nsawam-Adoagyiri, noted that the committee observed that hosting the secretariat in Ghana would offer job opportunities for Ghanaians.
“The committee was informed that apart from staff seconded by the AU Commission, member states and regional community groups and associations, the secretariat is required to hire the majority of its general staff from the host country.”
On the settling-in cash grant of US$10 million for the secretariat to commence its operations, he stated that the committee was informed that the amount was not meant to be paid upfront to the AU Commission but was to be released as and when a request was made for the preparatory works and programme of the secretariat.