Niamey - President of Madagascar and chairperson of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Andry Rajoelina snubbed the African Union Extraordinary summit and the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to go watch his country play at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt last weekend.
Rajoelina was on the programme to speak and give an update on the status of integration in COMESA during the AU’s Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger, last weekend.
The update was necessary as it gives the African Union an indication as to how the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are progressing as the continent makes serious breakthrough in making the continental free trade area a reality.
The AfCFTA cannot fully achieve its objectives if the continent does not integrate at regional level. Rajoelina was supposed to give an update and point out any challenges affecting his region. He was also supposed to be in the important first mid-year coordinating meeting on the sidelines of the extra-ordinary summit.
Instead, Rajoelina sent his Minister of Trade to Niamey, and chartered a plane to Alexandria, Egypt, to watch his team play the Democratic Republic of Congo last Sunday.
His Minister of Trade said the president couldn’t attend the summit because he had committed to an earlier engagement. Despite the extraordinary summit having been known for months, the engagement the minister was referring to appears to be his country’s AFCON last 16 match against DRC on Sunday, the same day as the summit.
On the day, when he was supposed to give a statement, Rajoelina was seen on television across the continent jumping with joy as his team beat DRC 4-2 on penalties after a nill-all draw in extra time.
Immediately after the game, the charted plane comprising 480 fans and the President flew back home. Each Malagasy fan was charged about US$600 for the flight, including match ticket, but just like the people at home, they didn’t worry about the president missing the AU extraordinary summit, nor about the price for a ticket as Madagascar progressed to the last eight of the AFCON in their maiden appearance.