Forty-four African countries have signed up to a historic trade agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement cast in the mould of the European Union’s version was signed during the 10th Ordinary Session of African Union Heads of State summit held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The AfCFTA gives birth to the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization which was formed in 1995. A total of nineteen presidents were present whiles a number of Prime Ministers and government representatives also signed for their respective countries.
In remarks on during deliberations, host and current African Union (A.U.) president, Paul Kagame said: “This agreement is about trade in goods and services. These are the kinds of complex products that drive high-income economies.”
Under the theme: “Creating One African Market,” the initiative falls under the Agenda 2063 of the A.U. According to estimates, if all 55 members states of the AU ratify it, the agreement will bring together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 2 trillion US Dollars.
The failure to attend by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari who leads Africa’s largest economy and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni had analysts worried. Ugandan Foreign Affairs minister attended and signed. Nigeria did not sign.
Analysts say Buhari may have caved under pressure from local labour unions and big corporations who have opposed the treaty saying it would harm the local economy
“If Nigeria does not join, it will have an impact definitely. Nigeria is 190 million population country, it’s a large economy. So we hope that Nigeria will not pull out of it.
“Nigeria had already been part of the process of building it, we think it’s just maybe one step back that they are taking to review,” Alpha Sy, an analyst said.