44 African countries sign free trade blocs deal

The leaders of 44 African countries have signed a deal to create one of the world’s largest free trade blocs.

The agreement, signed at a summit in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, is expected to come into force within six months, and increase prosperity for 1.2 billion Africans.

But 10 countries, including Nigeria, have refused to sign the deal, and it will need to be ratified by all the signatories’ national parliaments before the bloc becomes a reality.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) would remove barriers to trade, like tariffs and import quotas, allowing the free flow of goods and services between its members.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari pulled out of the summit, after “certain key stakeholders” – thought to mean trade unions and businesses – complained they had not been consulted.

The African Union said it hoped Nigeria and those countries with reservations would be persuaded to sign at a later date.

Head of African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat called it a “glorious challenge… which calls for the courage to believe, the courage to dare… the courage to achieve”.

He then recognised that to succeed the countries will “need to summon the required political will”.

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