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44 African countries sign AfCTFA

Jacob N.B. Parley/Maximilian Kasseh, Jr.

KIGALI, RWANDA-Forty four African Countries have formally signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Africa Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The ceremony took place on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, described the initiative as giant stride towards continental integration in the Pan-African Vision.

A total of   50 signed either the Agreement or the Kigali Declaration, underscoring their commitment to the Document, aimed at doubling intra-African trade by removing non-tariff and tariff barriers on goods and services.

In the same direction, 27 countries also signed the separate African Union Protocol on Free Movement of People.

The idea seeks to complement the AfCFTA by providing for visa-free travel, the right of residency and the right of business or professional establishment, for citizens between signatory countries.

“With the signature of the Kigali Declaration for the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa makes a giant stride forward in continental integration, in the pan-African vision, and in the development of our continent”,the ECA Executive Secretary is quoted as saying in a release from the Communications Department of the Economic Commission for Africa.

The ECA Executive Secretary also urged Member States to promptly ratify the AfCFTA, recalling that the agreement will only enter into force once a sufficient number of countries have ratified the agreement.

Speaking further, Ms. Songwe, noted that such historical moment shows the resolve of African leaders to bring the continent’s diversity together and make the flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 a reality.

Ms. Songwe also reaffirmed the necessity to leave no one behind, as defined in the Sustainable Development Goals, by making sure everyone benefits from the new opportunities created by the AfCFTA.

She commended all UN agencies for their support and said that the ECA was honored to be associated with such a great and historic moment.

During his key note address, African Union Chairperson, Paul Kagame, said, the AfCFTA was the zenith of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted in 1980, for a continent-wide market.
The Rwandan President also recognized the preeminent role of the regional economic communities in fostering African integration.

Also speaking occasion  attended by 19 heads of state, and more prime ministers and foreign ministers, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission,  Moussa Faki Mahamat,  thanked the ECA for its support during the more than two years of negotiations.

“Africa is a sleeping giant that can’t wake up if the continent is divided.” He said.

Mr. Mahamat also observed that   it was time to accelerate the pace of integration, as international competition leaves no room for the weak.Just as  Ms. Songwe did while addressing the forum,  Mr. Mahamat called upon African Member States to also sign the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, enabling the creation of an African passport.

The ECA strongly believes that among the key beneficiaries will be small and medium sized entreprises, accounting for 80 per cent of the region’s businesses; women, who represent 70% of the informal cross-border traders; and the youth, who will be able to find new employment opportunities.

The Economic Commission for Africa also estimates that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3% by eliminating import duties, and to double such trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced

 


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