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African countries agree to continental free trade area

African countries agree to continental free trade area

Speaking at the ceremony hosted by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who doubles as the African Union (AU) Chairman, various leaders agreed that the new milestone will end the balkanization of the continent into fragmented economies and markets.

Thw Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, and the Kigali Declaration that expresses African unity in moving forward, are also scheduled to be adopted at the one day summit, held on the last day of the five-day AU extraordinary summint on the AfCFTA.

easiPoint, an inventive solution to a uniquely African problem, allows businesses to collect, record and receive customer payments from any location on the continent.

The creation of a free trade area - billed as the world's largest in terms of participating countries since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995 - comes after two years of negotiations and is one of the AU's flagship projects for greater African integration.

The AfCFTA is expected to create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion.

The global context, marked by "a worrisome weakening of multilateralism" and the principles of solidarity among peoples, make the execution of this flagship project crucial, said AU Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat on Monday.

Of the 55 African Union member states, 44 countries signed the pact establishing the CTFA and 43 nations the Kigali Declaration launching the free trade area.

It sought to contribute to providing end-to-end and comprehensive solutions to smoothen the conduct of cross-border trade and investment activities across Africa, he said.

"Eventually, we are hoping that all the African Union states will be parties to the Continental Free Trade Area", he added. UNCTAD, the main United Nations body dealing with trade in its latest report puts intra-African trade at 10,2% of the continent's total trade.

Nigeria officially became Africa's largest economy in 2014 after changing the way it calculated the size of its output.

"We are realising that we are stronger together", said the President. Specifically, given Nigeria's status as a leading member of the Islamic Development Bank, the drive for investment into Nigeria and the important steps being taken towards economic recovery in Nigeria and through the region; the timing of the conference provides a much-needed platform for opening Islamic finance to Nigeria's business community.

The CFTA is a key part of the AU's long-term development plan Agenda 2063, which calls for easing trade and travel across the continent.

Governments now have to ratify the CFTA in their countries within the next six months, by September.


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