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African leaders set to launch continental trade deal

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Rwanda’s President and AU Chairperson Paul Kagame.

African countries are set to put their signature to an agreement that will launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda, today.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated the agreement’s implementation could increase intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022, compared with trade levels in 2010.

African heads of government agreed to establish a continental free trade area in 2012 and started negotiations in 2015.

The agreement is to be signed by all 55-member states of the African Union, bringing together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion.

The draft agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, with 10 per cent of “sensitive items” to be phased in later.

The agreement will also liberalise services and aims to tackle so-called “non-tariff barriers” which hamper trade between African countries, such as long delays at the border.

Eventually, free movement of people and even a single currency could become part of the free trade area.

By creating a single continental market for goods and services, the member states of the African Union hope to boost trade between African countries.

David Luke, coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at UNECA, hopes the free trade area will correct this “historical anomaly”.


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