Nigeria, South Africa absent as 44 African countries sign free trade agreement

American investors urged to do business with SA

American investors urged to do business with SA

At the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda, Paul Kagame, host president, declared the meeting a success after initial negotiations were concluded.

Some 27 countries also signed the separate African Union Protocol on Free Movement of People, which complements 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.

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 US dollars, the pan-African bloc said.

Chairperson of AU Commission Moussa Mahamat was handed over the legal instruments signed by 44 African countries at the signing ceremony.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement will initially commit governments to remove tariffs on 90% of goods and then eventually phase in the balance, according to a report from Bloomberg. The proposal of the free trade is not any different to that which exists in the European Union, and for the most part it means that goods can come and go between the countries.

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According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), cutting intra-African tariffs could bring $3.6bn in welfare gains to the continent through a boost in production and cheaper goods.

However, critics highlight a dearth of roads and other infrastructure linking different African nations, as well as the fact that many countries do not manufacture goods their neighbours may want to import, as challenges to the deal.

Reeta Roy, the foundation's chief executive officer, told Reuters they would spend more than $2 billion to create 30 million "dignified jobs" for young people on the continent by 2030. As financial intermediaries, they are expected to cement economic integration within Africa, support financial inclusion and give rise to greater economies of scale.

"We have no doubt this policy initiative will spell the death knell of the Nigerian economy", said the Nigeria Labour Congress. Specifically, given Nigeria's status as a leading member of the Islamic Development Bank, the drive for investment into Nigeria and the important steps being taken towards economic recovery in Nigeria and through the region; the timing of the conference provides a much-needed platform for opening Islamic finance to Nigeria's business community.

The AfCFTA is part of Africa's plan to promote Intra and Inter-regional trade, economic cooperation and partnership on the continent by 2063. However, the agreement will still have to be ratified at a national level, and is only due to come into force in 180 days.

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