Africa Urged to Speedily Ratify Free Trade Agreement

African Union chair and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and the chair of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat unveil a plaque marking the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area at the Kigali Convention Centre on March 21, 2018.

Addis Ababa — Rwanda's Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana has urged African countries to speedily ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The 22nd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts of the Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (ICE 2018) opened in Kigali on today.

Addressing the meeting, Ndajimana said the AfCFTA was crucial to Africa's inclusive growth and prosperity hence the need for more countries to urgently ratify the agreement so it can go into force.

Forty-nine of Africa's 54 countries have so far signed the agreement establishing a free trade area that is seen as vital to the continent's economic development.

At least 22 member countries should ratify the agreement before it can be implemented. So far only 12 have ratified since signing the accord in March, two of them from East Africa.

"We were all very happy with the outcome of the AU Summit here in this building in March this year," said Minister Ndajimana.

"However, this is not enough. We need ratifications to move forward. Our efforts will come to nothing if we do not achieve 22 ratifications by March next year."

He added that the theme of the meeting; "Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From Vision to Action", was timely, allowing governments in the region to meet with experts to discuss what the agreement means for both region and continent and build consensus on the way forward.

The Minister said the AfCFTA symbolized 'our progress toward the ideal of African unity'.

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