Busa president Sipho Pityana congratulated Wamkele Mene on his election as first secretary-general of AfCFTA. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Business Unity South Africa (Busa) president Sipho Pityana on Tuesday congratulated Wamkele Mene on his election as first secretary-general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Mene was selected after a vote against Nigeria at the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday afternoon.

DescriptionThe African Continental Free Trade Area is a free trade area which as of 2018 includes 28 countries. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 AU nations.

Pityana said: “We are confident that Mene has what it takes to ensure rapid implementation of the AfCFTA, and to maximise the opportunities it presents. This is a significant appointment for South Africa and the continent, and it is particularly notable that it takes place during the same AU session at which President Cyril Ramaphosa took over the chairmanship of the AU.”

Mene – who was South Africa’s chief negotiator in the AfCFTA and is a former diplomat at the World Trade Organisation – will be inaugurated along with other members of the AfCFTA Secretariat in March, ahead of the July 1 target date for the free trade agreement to kick in.

“Organised business knows Mene well and we are sure he will be able to ensure the seamless implementation of AfCFTA,” said Pityana.

“The free trade agreement presents huge opportunities to fight under-development and poverty while advancing peace and prosperity on the continent,” says Pityana, who is also co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF's) prestigious new Africa Regional Stewardship Board.

“We urge the private sector across the continent to align itself and play a co-ordinated role in operationalising the AfCFTA, so that we continue to uplift the continent and its people.”