African states sign pact for free movement of people

Charlene Craig
March 24, 2018

African heads of state signed the pact at a summit in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

African leaders are expected to sign an agreement to launch the AfCFTA on Wednesday, the last day of the summit, according to the AU.

The signing took place during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) on the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA aims to establish a single liberalized market that will spur industrialization, infrastructural development, economic diversification and trade across the continent that is home to some 1.2 billion people. A week later, members of the AU started talks for the establishment of the continent-wide free trade area.

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Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is confident that Africa as a whole will benefit immensely from the establishment of the continental free trade area.

He explained that he would spend more time on consultations after one of the Nigeria's largest labor unions expressed concerns about the negative effects of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) on one of the leading economies of the continent and demanded greater participation in the negotiations.

The goal of the agreement was to improve intra-regional trade throughout the continent with hopes to decrease Africa's poverty rate and grow its manufacturing base by ridding the continent of all trade barriers, including "non-tariff barriers and removing import duties", as reported on CNN.

It added that South Africa, Kenya and Egypt are most likely to benefit from further trade integration in Africa, adding that morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon also stand to gain from increased intra-African trade. 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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Experts say countries with ports serving landlocked nations fear a loss of revenue. The significant step is also aimed at diversifying from long-established commodity exports outside the continent, as the price volatility damages the economies of many nations.

The relatively small size of many African markets - only Nigeria and Ethiopia have populations estimated at 100 million people or more - also inhibit private sector investment.

Consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectoral and sub-sectoral preferences that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation.

The CFTA is a key part of the AU's long-term development plan, Agenda 2063, which calls for the easing trade and travel across the continent.

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The AU has set a 2018 deadline for the removal of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries. 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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