Forty-four nations signs intra-African free trade deal

Photo courtesy AU

Forty-four countries in Africa on Wednesday signed a historic trade agreement that is aimed at enabling free cross-border trade on the continent.

The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement will create a market for over a billion people, with a GDP of approximately US$2.6 trillion.

The decision to establish the CFTA was initially arrived at in the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in January 2012, with a tentative launch date of 2017.

The Summit also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) which identifies seven clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.

The deal was however hit by a setback when some countries’ leaders failed to show up, with reports indicating they were not in support of it. Such leaders include those of Nigeria, Uganda, Burundi, Guinea Bissau and Eritrea.

Worth noting however, only 27 countries have agreed to allow freedom of movement across the border. The others said they would ratify AfCTA partially without allowing for free trade but not movement and residency of people from other countries.

Countries now have to ratify the CFTA agreement at national level within six months, that is, by September this year. Those that did not sign can also do so within the same period.