Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has stressed the importance of intra-African trade for Africa’s economic development.
Obasanjo who made this known at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Business Forum, held under the framework of the AU extraordinary summit in Kigali.
He said president of the Pan-African Parliament Roger Nkodo Dang described the AfCFTA as “salvation” for Africa.
Obasanjo said African countries must unite and trade with each other.
“I am surprised that any African leader at this time would be doubting or debating the benefits of what is going to be signed here and fail to show up,” said Obasanjo.
The AfCFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments.
It was reported that African leaders are scheduled to sign an agreement that will launch the free trade area.
Also speaking, Miriem Bensaleh-Chaqroun, chairperson of Morocco Private Sector Confederation, said the AfCFTA investments will expand to different parts of the continent, which presents an exciting time to do business in Africa.
According to the African Union (AU), AfCFTA will pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.
According to the AU, the AfCFTA will make Africa the largest free trade area in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, the pan-African bloc said.
The AfCFTA will progressively eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for African businesses to trade within the continent and cater to and benefit from the growing African market, said the AU.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 53.2 per cent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.
African officials and experts also said there could still be challenges facing the operation of the AfCFTA.