The African Union will launch the “operational phase” of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a trade accord that will substantially increase trade between member nations.
The 55-nation bloc will set a date for trading to begin in the African Continental Free Trade Area which aims to ultimately remove trade barriers and tariffs between members.
By doing so, supporters of the initiative believes business between African nations will boom.
The economy of Africa, with a GDP of $2.5 trillion today, will reach takeoff just as its 1.2 billion population doubles over the next three decades, they predict.
“It’s a remarkable achievement, and one that can even be described as historic,” AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said Thursday in the Niger capital Niamey.
Nigeria, the continent’s largest and most populous economy, said it would sign after long holding back.
Talks on free trade began back in 2002, culminating in a deal that in late May crossed the threshold of ratification by at least 22 countries.
That tally is now 25 out of 55 AU members. Benin and Eritrea are the last countries yet to sign.
The share of trade done by African nations with each other is very low — just 16 percent, compared to 65 percent among European countries.
“Africa trades with the rest of the world, but it does not trade with itself,” said Jakkie Cilliers from the Institute for Security Studies, a South African-based think tank.