A union of 55 African nations signed a landmark free trade agreement on Sunday at the African Union summit in Niger. The deal was hailed as a ‘historic’ move for it would bring closer 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economy by boosting intra-regional trade. It is one of the first successful attempt by AU in a long time to strive for the continent’s “peace and prosperity”.
The agreement, finally saw the light of day after 17 years of negotiations. Currently the deal is in the “operational phase” of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Moussa Faki, AU commission chairman called this economic union a “historic” moment.
Faki added that AfCFTA turning into reality was like “an old dream is coming true, the founding fathers must be proud”, as AfCFTA would create “the greatest trading area in the world”.
Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger’s President, called the signing ceremony as the “the greatest historical event for the African continent since the creation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963,” which was AU’s predecessor.
It is believed that the formation of AfCFTA would help the bloc members to obtain optimum economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, beefing up the supply chains and developing expertise.
The two-day summit, hosted in Niger’s capital Niamey, was attended by about 4,500 delegates and guests, including 32 state heads and over 100 ministers.
Currently 54 out of 55 nations have signed the agreement, leaving aside Eritrea. Eritrea did not become party to the pact because of its long-running conflict with Ethiopi, but is still considering joining the deal. Rest of the member nations have agreed to shared “rules of origin, the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers, a unified digital payments system and an African trade observatory dashboard”, as per the AU commission..