44 African countries in total have signed a vital continental free trade agreement in the Rwandan capital Kigali to enable the long-awaited economic integration and movement of goods and persons across member states.
43 countries also signed the Kigali declaration and 27 countries agreed to ease mobility of people across the continent by signing the protocol on the movement of people across Africa. Some countries signed all the three legal instruments at once but 50 countries signed at least one of the three documents.
The African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat who disclosed the number of signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement on Wednesday during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly said the agreement will be beneficial to every nation.
“Beyond the debates about what some countries might gain or lose in the short term, the truth, statistically established, is that each of our Member States and the continent as a whole will benefit immensely from the establishment of the Free Trade Area,” he said in a statement.
“Our peoples, our business community and our youth, in particular, cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic take-off and perpetuate misery, even though Africa is abundantly endowed with wealth,” he added.
The agreement which comes after two years of negotiations will still have to be ratified at the national level and is only due to come into force in 180 days.
11 countries including Nigeria and South Africa have not yet signed the agreement due to objections from business leaders and unions which they intend to settle before they sign on.
All 55 member states of the African Union are expected to sign the agreement which will bring together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion.
The draft agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 percent of goods, with 10 percent of “sensitive items” to be phased in later.
BY ISMAIL AKWEI