By Henry Okonkwo
A former Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou, has been honoured for having promoted the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Issoufou was appreciated with his statue been unveiled in Ghana on Friday before several African Union leaders
Reacting to the gesture, Issoufou said, “I have a double satisfaction to have been distinguished and to receive this distinction here in Accra, the Mecca of pan-Africanism.
“It also honours the Nigerien people and the generations of Pan-Africanists who created the organisation.”
AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said, “Great lengths to lead and oversee the establishment and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area and with him, we have made progress that we are celebrating today.”
Issoufou received the honour a few months after receiving the Mo Ibrahim Prize in March 2021 for advocating democratic alternation when he renounced a third term as Niger’s President.
His counterparts celebrated his “leadership” as the head of AfCFTA, launched on Jan. 1, 2021, with 54 of 55 AU nations.
“He has carried this project with bravery and admiration to the end,” said AU President Felix Tshisekedi.
For Issoufou, the project was the result of the political will and support of African heads of state.
He said they have understood “the absurdity of maintaining in this era of globalization in Africa balkanized, with 84,000 kilometres that block the movement of people, goods and services”.
They have also “shown leadership” by setting out a vision of an Africa that is, among other things, united, prosperous, inclusively growing, well-governed, respectful of human rights and justice, resilient and internationally influential, he noted.
These goals are based on “immense natural resources and extraordinary demographic assets provided they are respectfully transformed into economic dividends and manufactured goods,” Issoufou said.