African Leaders Launch ‘Historic’ Free Trade deal

ADDIS ABABA – The African Continental Free Trade Area has been launched following a day-long summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in the Nigerien capital on Sunday.

It took 17 years of tough negotiations before the launch of the “operational phase” of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  AU commission chairman Moussa Faki described it as a “historic” moment.

“An old dream is coming true, the founding fathers must be proud,” said Faki, adding that AfCFTA would create “the greatest trading area in the world”.

The agreement was adopted and opened for signature on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, and entered into force on 30 May 2019, thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29 April, 2019 in conformity with legal provisions.

On Sunday, nations agreed to shared “rules of origin, the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers, a unified digital payments system and an African trade observatory dashboard”, according to African AU.

Nigeria and Benin signed the historic agreement during the opening session of the summit. Eritrea remains the only AU member country that is yet to sign the deal but said it will consider joining the pact.

“The speedy entry into force of the AfCFTA is a source of pride for all of us,” Faki said. He described the free trade agreement as one of the instruments for continental integration in line with the objectives of the Abuja Treaty and the aspirations of Agenda 2063.

The AfCFTA will be one of the largest free trade areas since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Meanwhile, Ghana has been confirmed by the Heads of State and Government as the host of the secretariat of the AfCFTA, having prevailed over six other countries that had also expressed interest in hosting it.

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