KIGALI– Leaders of 44 African countries have signed an agreement to create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to create one of the world’s biggest trade blocs.
South Africa is one of the countries to sign the declaration at an extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) to establish the free trade are (FTA) in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Wednesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the agreement would present major trade and investment opportunities for African countries.
Ramaphosa described the signing of the much-vaunted continental trade treaty as historic and a monumental achievement for intra-African trade.
It is going to be like a new dawn for the African continent. We will herald a real new beginning as Africa begins to demonstrate that it’s a continent of traders who want to succeed and in our case it is about an opportunity to be able to grow our economy in the biggest possible way, he added.
According to estimates, the AfCFTA treaty is meant to bring together fifty-five African countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 3.4 trillion US dollars.
The African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, says although some countries have reservations about signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, another summit will be held in Mauritania in July when those countries can make their choice.
Notable among countries which did not sign the agreement Wednesday is Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, whose president, President MuhammaduBuhari, said the country had reservations about the treaty.
Ramaphosa welcomed the historic adoption by the AU of the AfCFTA Agreement as a new beginning for the continent that will catapult African countries and companies to much higher levels of growth.
Ramaphosa says South Africa will become a signatory to the agreement once the legal and other instruments associated with AfCFTA are processed and ratified by South African stakeholders and Parliament.
A total of 44 countries signed the AfCFTA, while 27 signed the protocol to the treaty establishing the African economic community relating to free movement of persons.
President Ramaphosa signed the Kigali Declaration for the launch of the AfCFTA during Wednesday’s plenary session of the Summit.
This is an opportunity that is going to yield great benefits for all countries on the continent as well as big business, small companies and micro-traders, President Ramaphosa said at the conclusion of his Working Visit to the Republic of Rwanda.
In his capacity as Chair of the South African Development Community (SADC), President Ramaphosa said the trade-focused Kigali Summit was a forward step in the arduous journey to translate the African Continental Free Trade Area legal instrument into an effective conduit for increased trade and investment across the African continent.
He urged that the African Continental Free Trade Area should provide new and meaningful trade and investment opportunities across the African continent.
Africa’s vulnerabilities and limited participation in global trade are indicative of its traditional reliance on the export of raw commodities and the import of value-added products, Ramaphosa said.
AfCFTA is aimed at deepening African economic integration, promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation and structural economic transformation through single-air continental transport market with free movement of persons, capital, goods and services.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK