A bronze bust statue on a marble stone has been unveiled at a ceremony in Ghana’s capital, Accra to honour former president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.
The statue was unveiled in the presence of five African heads of state at the forecourt of the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) based in Accra.
Issoufou was honored for his role in getting the continental free trade deal finally activated after decades of delay and inaction.
In a statement the AfCFTA secretariat and its partners said Issoufou achievements “include successfully leading the conclusion of the AfCFTA negotiations as AU Champion for AfCFTA; its entry into force; the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA.”
The statue was sponsored by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, the African Union (AU), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo Addo said through the work of the ex-Nigerien leader “we have made the journey of consolidating this common trading area with a population of 1.3 billion people with a GDP of over $85 billion. This is an opportunity for the economic potential of Africa.”
The Chairman of the African Union, DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi commented that Issoufou “has carried this project with bravery and admiration to the end.”
The free trade deal finally launched on Jan. 1, 2021 with 54 of 55 AU nations.
AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said the former Nigerien leader who was named the champion of AfCFTA went to “great lengths to lead and oversee the establishment and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area” adding that with him, “we have made progress that we are celebrating today.”
Mr. Mene added that “Without the singular contribution of former President Issoufou Mahamadou, to the AfCFTA, it is doubtful that we would have achieved the progress that we celebrate today.”
The CFTA is a major project of the AU’s long-term development plan Agenda 2063, which emphasis the need to ease trade and travel across the continent.
The free trade zone is considered a critical action to usher Africa into a new era of development.
Mr. Mene however noted that “there will be challenges that may seem unsurmountable, it is at that point that we should re-double our resolve to forge ahead with economic integration of our continent.”
Issoufou in accepting the honor done him said he has “a double satisfaction to have been distinguished and to receive this distinction here in Accra, the Mecca of pan-Africanism.”
In March this year, Issoufou also received the Mo Ibrahim Prize for advocating democratic alternation when he renounced a third term as Niger’s president.
He announced his decision to step down after the two five-year terms, a move that was hailed by many and considered significant in promoting democracy in the West African nation.
Issoufou had said that “Handing over power in 2021 to a democratically elected successor… will be my greatest achievement.”