African leaders launch landmark 55-nation trade zone
After four years of negotiations, African countries agreed to a free-trade deal that will unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development across the continent.
The landmark trade agreement was signed ahead of the accord’s official launch at the African Union (AU) summit in Niger.
Ghana was announced as the host of the trade zone’s future headquarters.
“The eyes of the world are turned towards Africa,” Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said at the summit’s opening ceremony.
The African free-trade bloc will help boost the continent’s long-stymied economy by strengthening interregional trade and supply chains.
The free-trade zone should be operational from July 2020, AU trade and industry commissioner Albert Muchanga said.
AU commission chairman Moussa Faki dubbed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) deal a “historic” moment.
Fifty-four out of 55 AU member states agreed to the deal in March, with only Eritrea holding out. It took African leaders four years to reach an agreement on the continental free-trade zone, which is expected to usher in a new era of development in Africa.
The AfCFTA is the largest trade bloc since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994.