Ethiopia joins African countries in historic intra-Africa trade agreement
Close to 50 African Union Member States, including Ethiopia, signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), the Kigali Declaration and the Free Movement Protocol, during the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government held on 21st March, in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Summit, dedicated to the AfCFTA, was described by the African Union (AU) leaders and Decision makers, as an historic moment, marking a major milestone in the realization of the “Africa We Want” as enshrined in Agenda 2063. AfCFTA will be the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation.
The African leaders all expressed the willingness to facilitate intra-African trade by signing the three legally binding documents: 44 countries signed the AfCFTA agreement, 47 signed the Kigali Declaration and 30 signed the Free Movement Protocol. Ethiopia, represented by the Minister of Trade, H.E. Dr Bekele Bulado, signed the AfCFTA agreement and the Kigali Declaration.
The Chairperson of the African Union (AU), H.E Paul Kagame, said “I wish to acknowledge all the leaders, past and present, involved in bringing us to this point. We are reaping the rewards, of their foresight.”
The AU Chair said the signing will enhance the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, particularly women and youths, as it will create more jobs, bring more investment and prosperity to the continent with the view of prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services, that are “Made in Africa”.
H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), said “We have come here driven by the conviction that integration is not an option, but an imperative. To paraphrase Emperor Haile Selassie at the May 1963 Summit, the giant Africa cannot wake up if it remains divided…Therefore, we are here to fulfil the aspiration of our peoples for integration and unity…We have come here to lay a new milestone, to take another step in the Pan-African journey, whose intellectual seeds were sown more than a century ago.”
African heads of government agreed to establish a continental free trade area in 2012 and started negotiations in 2015.
The agreement brings together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over $2 trillion.
The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods, with 10% of “sensitive items” to be phased in later.
It 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.
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