AU highlights importance of African free trade area

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The African Union (AU) on Monday stressed the importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

The international context, marked by "a worrisome weakening of multilateralism" and the principles of solidarity among peoples, make the execution of this flagship project crucial, said AU Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat.

He was speaking at the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of AU, part of the ongoing AU extraordinary summit on the AfCFTA.

At a time when the rest of the world is coming together and consolidating itself in the resolute defence of its strategic interests, African countries have no choice but to forge ahead, said Mahamat.

The chairperson said some technical issues remain to be overcome, relating in particular to the nature of the Secretariat of the Free Trade Area, the number of ratification required for the entry into force of the AfCFTA agreement and the admissibility of reservations.

The AfCFTA will induce an increase in intra-African trade of 52% by 2022 and significantly increase Africa's industrial and agricultural exports, according to Mahamat.

African leaders are expected to sign an agreement to launch the AfCFTA on Wednesday, the last day of the summit, according to the AU. It will make Africa the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organization, the AU said.

The AfCFTA could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, said the pan-African bloc.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who will lead a delegation to Wednesday’s summit, said South Africa is committed to the establishment of an AfCFTA, adding that it will boost intra-Africa trade in accordance with the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

He added that the AfCFTA will also offer an opportunity to create a bigger market and to improve the prospects of the African continent’s ability to attract investment. -

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