African Union Highlights Importance Of Continental Free Trade Area In Kigali

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The AfCFTA will make Africa the largest free trade area created in terms of numbers of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization, according to the AU.

The Federal Executive Council had on Wednesday last week, approved for the President to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.

President Muhammadu Buhari who leads Africa's largest economy, Nigeria, cancelled his planned trip to the summit citing a need for further domestic consultations about the deal.

"But we shall have another summit in Mauritania in July where we expect countries with reservations to also sign", said Albert Muchanga, the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry.

Speaking at the opening of the summit, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat urged African heads of state and government to sign this landmark agreement.

"On the contrary, as we trade more among ourselves, African firms will become bigger, more specialised, and more competitive internationally".

"The task now is to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, so that they may come into effect as soon as possible", he said.

He stressed the importance of intra-African trade for Africa's economic development.

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Those that spoke to our correspondent are a former Director-General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Chijioke Ekechukwu; the President, National Association of Small Scale Industrialists, Mr Ezekiel Essien and a Developmental Economist, Odilim Enwagbara.

"In the long run, the continental free-trade area has tremendous potential benefit to all the member countries in boosting their trade and transforming their economies", Edward Brown, director at the African Centre for Economic Transformation, told Al Jazeera.

The trade plan, which was endorsed by Nigeria's cabinet last week, is meant to help African economies retain more value from their resources.

With the deadline disease, the South African government has been forced to halt the supply of meat, with the country battling to put the situation under control.

"The agreement says that 90 per cent of the tariff plan would be liberalised, leaving only 10 per cent to protect manufacturers, and that 10 per cent is too low".

The establishment of the Free Trade Area will result in the establishment of a market of over one billion two hundred million people, with a combined gross product of over three trillion dollars.

He said: "The conclusion we reached was that it is very important that in doing the agreement, we are clear that we are doing is good for Nigeria".