22 March 2018

Africa: AU Extraordinary Summit - Ramaphosa's Major Step Towards the African Continental Free Trade Area

analysis

In an elaborate ceremony in the beehive-shaped Kigali Convention Centre, 44 African Union member states signed an agreement on an African free trade area. President Cyril Ramaphosa is confident Africa will unite, even though the continent's two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, still had to come on board.

Much was made of Africa's "historic moment" - second only, it was said, to the founding of the Organisation of African Unity 55 years ago.

Master of ceremonies, former BBC journalist Mark Eddo, kept up the enthusiastic refrain:

"Change is in the air, I can feel it!"

Such was the hype that real information was at times difficult to find. For instance, there was no clear announcement on which agreement a country was signing if they weren't signing all three - the Protocol on the Free Movement of People (across Africa), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, or the opt-out-for-now-but-still-committed-to-it Kigali Declaration. An accurate list of which country signed what was also still elusive.

South Africa, as it turned out, signed only the Kigali Declaration, with 42 other African Union states, although at some point some communicators from the Rwandan side, as well as a...

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