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44 African leaders sign free trade movement in Kigali

Some 44 out of the 55 AU leaders met in Kigali recently, to sign an agreement that will launch the African…

Some 44 out of the 55 AU leaders met in Kigali recently, to sign an agreement that will launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (the AfCFTA).

AfCFTA going by reports, will make the continent the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

During the opening ceremony, President Kagame stated:

“The Continental Free Trade Area is the culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by Heads of State in 1980. That undertaking led directly to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community in 1991.

We continue to be guided by the foundational principles and detailed implementation roadmap that were laid down in those instruments.

Among the most important guidelines is the pre-eminent role of our Regional Economic Communities. They have been the model and the engine for Africa’s economic integration and they will continue to be.
Trade agreements cover many complex details. Behind the scenes, Commission staff, ministers, and technical experts put in countless days and nights of hard work. This effort has paid off and we thank you.

What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs, particularly women and youth.

The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritising the production of value-added goods and services that are “Made in Africa”.

The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world, and that is a good thing.

At the same time, we will be in a better position to leverage our growing strength and unity to secure Africa’s rightful interests in the international arena.

This is not just a signing ceremony. Today’s deliberations are critically important as we chart the next steps on our journey towards the Africa we want.”

H.E. Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, says the African Continental Free Trade Area will also strengthen Africa’s position in global trade: “AfCFTA will make Africa one of the largest economies in the world and enhance its capacity to interact on equal terms with other international economic blocs.”

On the 20th of March, a day before the signing, Government delegations joined Africa’s top business leaders and other stakeholders to exchange views on the continent’s economic transformation through trade at a special day of celebration and dialogue, the AfCFTA Business Summit.

The progressive trade liberalization of Africa in the years ahead will mean new opportunities for African companies to compete and cooperate across borders and build continental reach. However the success of the AfCFTA will depend on closer collaboration between policy makers and the private sector.

President Kagame says: “We need active support from the private sector. In fact, without your voice something essential is missing.” The AfCFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The Free Trade Area has the potential to transform the fortunes of millions of Africans by boosting trading ties between Africa’s nations.

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya put it succinctly: “(The African) CFTA means an end to poverty. CFTA means prosperity for our continent. CFTA means jobs for our young people who today struggle and are fleeing our own continent. CFTA means peace and security because we have gainfully engaged our population. CFTA means Africa being able to be self-reliant. CFTA means the African Union meeting to discuss what to do with our prosperity and not what to do with the problems we suffer.

Currently Africa trades far less with itself than it does with the rest of the world. Intra-Africa trade stands at about 16%, compared with 19% intra-regional trade in Latin America, 51% in Asia, 54% in North America and 70% in Europe. The United Nations Economic for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-Africa trade by 53% by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers. It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion.

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