informed our foreign policy since our independence and continue to do so, because those ideals are as relevant today as they were at our independence.
Our First President charged that Africa should unite because in unity lies strength, we are far from that but there are steps we can take as a country that can bring Africa closer to us, and create economic opportunities as we do so for our citizens.
Earlier this year, at the Executive Council Meeting of the African Union, it was decided that AU Member States should review their internal and external security situations with a view to putting in place the mechanisms that would allow for the issuance of visa's on arrival for citizens of AU Member States, with the option to stay in the country for up to 30 days.
Mr Speaker, we believe creating opportunity for the mobility of people on our continent is key to unlocking our economic potential. Today, within some of our regional organisations, in our case the ECOWAS and in a number of countries such as Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, it is possible to travel without having to obtain a visa before visiting another member State.
But by and large, travelling across our continent is a hassle. Indeed, for those African businessmen and women trying to do business on our continent, it is actually easier for them to operate within the Schengen Area of the European Union than it is to travel around our continent.
Africa has a growing and dynamic middle class that is both entrepreneurial, forward looking and has purchasing power and we intend to make it easier for them to enter our country.
Mr Speaker, with effect from July this year, we will be allowing citizens of AU member States to enter into our country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to thirty days and experience what our country has to offer. This measure, with time should stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism.
We have managed movement within and out of our country with citizens of the ECOWAS member States, so, we have the capacity to manage this new regime we are introducing. We also know that there may be persons from our continent who we may not want to admit into our country, and hence the provision for obtaining visas on arrival and not visa-free entry.
This will enable the Ghana Immigration Service to make a determination as to whether to allow them entry or not into our country.
Mr Speaker, in doing this, we are taking up the needed leadership of our Founder's dream of bringing the citizens of the African continent closer together.
Mr Speaker, this year, we will also commence negotiations for the creation of a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017, and we will be actively participating in the negotiations with a view to creating the economic basis for a more united and integrated continent.
The target we set ourselves as a continent here in Accra in November, 2011, during the African Trade Ministers meeting, is an ambitious one, but is certainly not beyond our capability and we will continue to play a leading role towards realising our goal of promoting an integration of the States and people of this great continent.
Last year, just before the UN General Assembly, the world saw the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals. The goals set an ambitious agenda for the development of all the countries of the world so that for the next fifteen years, we will collectively work together to create the world that we want to see. We also, at the COP 21 Summit in Paris, came to a historic agreement on reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change.
Mr Speaker, the two are not mutually exclusive and we look forward to incorporating the elements of these two important multilateral and global policy initiatives into our national planning and programme implementation.
But this is not just an honour for me; it is an honour to our country in recognition of our leadership in peacekeeping, in managing crisis, such as the Ebola outbreak that hit our region two years ago, our leadership on our continent in promoting democracy and good governance and our leadership in positively transforming the lives of our people over the period of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
It is important that we draw our continent's attention to the need to incorporate the SDG's into our National Development Plans as we think and plan for the future we want to create for the next generation.
I will be working with other members of the advocacy group and roping in other advocates from our continent with an emphasis on bringing on board young people and women so that the SDG's become part of our discourse and engage
our collective attention as we plan towards the development of the continent.
Mr Speaker, we will begin the implementation of our linguistic pact with La Francophonie, and through this process encourage our citizens at all levels to become bi-lingual in French and English.
Mr Speaker, I encourage the Leadership of Parliament to introduce French courses for our Members of Parliament, so that we will set the examples.
When we consider that with our immediate neighbours our combined populations create a market of about 33 million people and we already engage in trade and social interactions with each other both formally and informally, it is time for us to make an extra effort to be able to engage them and the other francophone states within our ECOWAS region more effectively to promote trade in goods and services, tourism and investments within our region.
Mr. Speaker, this year, we will continue to play an active role within our ECOWAS region, on the continent, within the Commonwealth under the leadership of our new Secretary-General -- Patricia Scotland -- and within the United Nations and its various agencies, especially the Human Rights Council and UNESCO, where we are members of the Executive Board. We will play an active leadership role in creating the world we want.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion -- [Interruption] -- I began this Address with an admission that politicians talk a lot -- As I have, no doubt, proved here today -- but that our words sometimes fail us because they do not always accurately reveal the human faces that