Tayebwa addressed the ongoing 18th Speakers and Presiding Officers of Commonwealth Conference in Cameroon.

Yaounde, Cameroon | THE INDEPENDENT | The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, has challenged African leaders to prioritize unrestricted trade with each other while implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area to avoid the burden of foreign aid.

Tayebwa made the observation on Wednesday 19th July 2023 while addressing delegates at the ongoing 18th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth countries being held in the capital, Yaoundé in Cameroon.

The Conference started on July 13th, 2023, and will end on July 22, 2023. It is premised on the theme, “African Parliaments and Agenda 2063”. The theme has been subdivided into four different topics, focusing on; the devastating impact of climate change, the African Continental Free Trade Area implementation, food security in Africa, and securing public trust through transparency and accountability.

To drive his point home, Tayebwa noted that whereas elite Africans criticize neo-colonialism, several African governments have introduced foreigners to usurp investment opportunities on the continent while undermining and ignoring natives with the same capability.

Rather than blaming the status quo on neo-colonialism, Tayebwa reasoned trade, especially intra-African trade is the only instrument that African governments must enforce to liberate themselves from the burden of exploitation associated with aid being imposed by foreign powers.

He explained that whereas intra-Africa trade can only be smoothly facilitated by travel and free movement of goods and services, African governments have imposed unnecessary travel restrictions which hinders the achievement of a United Africa.

He decried the unfavorable travel conditions in African countries and cited his flight from Uganda to Cameroon, a distance of 2,039km (1,435 miles,) which took over 20 hours instead of 3 hours. He explained that he would have used the same time to fly to Belgium and The Netherlands, and back to Uganda.

He criticized Africans for trying to look at each other as competitors and not as a partner as each country is operating an airline despite heavy losses incurred. He advocated for the revamping of regional blocs such as ECOWAS, EAC, and COMESA to advance Africa’s aviation industry.

Whereas the Protocol on Relations between the African Union – AU and Regional Economic Communities (REC) was adopted as a means of limiting overlapping risks, it still encourages continued independent operations rather than their integration.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a flagship project of the AU that was championed in 2012 and commenced operations in 2021 aimed at facilitating intra-African trade and boosting the continent’s positioning on the global market to actualize Africa’s Agenda 2063.

AfCFTA is anticipated to create a single continental market with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 3.4 trillion that will benefit its population of over 1.3 billion people on the African continent.

Out of the 55 African countries, 27 (including Uganda) have ratified the AfCFTA Instrument, 28 have signed but are yet to ratify the Instrument, while Eritrea is the only country yet to sign.

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