Rwanda: AU Summit - Heads of State Begin to Arrive

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"AfCFTA will make Africa one of the largest economies in the world and enhance its capacity to interact on equal terms with other worldwide economic blocs", commented AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 53.2 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.

He said AfCFTA would benefit all the smaller countries in Africa looking for markets for their products.

African nations must realize that what they achieve through the AfCFTA depends on them. "I find it criminal", Obasanjo said.

Jacob also noted that the market access of the agreement was a concern to manufacturers, as it leaves low protection to locally produced goods.

"What we are saying is that the 10 per cent is too small, even at the current Common External Tariff ( CET ) regime, we enjoy more than 10 per cent".

Speaking at the opening session of the Council meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community and Chairperson of African Union Executive Council, Louise Mushikiwabo said that the signing of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement is a historical landmark.

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"We must do so rapidly", she said.

He noted that the AfCFTA would impede the growth of the manufacturing sector, lead to dearth of many businesses, increase the country's unemployment rate, and incapacitate local technological advancement.

African countries have to "work on establishing the administrative, legal and logistical structures", said Mushikiwabo at the 18th Executive Council Meeting that kicked off in Kigali yesterday, as part of the AU Extraordinary Summit on the AfCFTA.

Leaders of Africa's 55 countries will make history when they come together to sign an agreement that will launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (the AfCFTA).

Recall that Nigeria's proposed involvement in the framework agreement had attracted opposition from the private sector and the labour movement.

Muhammadu Buhari, president of one of Africa's largest markets Nigeria, this week canceled plans to attend the Kigali launch and called for more consultations after business leaders objected to joining the free trade area.

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