Africa Union meeting in Rwanda capital Kigali this week for the 10th Extraordinary session of the assembly, seeks to achieve one of the greatest undertakings since the formation of the World Trade Organization WTO,ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area.
According to the World Bank, the poorer rural African populations are more likely to benefit from economic development if intra-African trade increases. Farmers will be able to sell their products more easily to neighboring countries, and will be able to make higher profits and counter food shortages, especially in drought-affected areas, and with combination of new ports, roads and railways has been designed to facilitate trade between Africa and other parts of the world
However, several countries are skeptical. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government had previously endorsed the project, decided at the last moment not to travel to Kigali, effectively boycotting the signature of the CFTA treaty. Buhari has called for more consultations on the document, after Nigerian business leaders and unions made clear their objections to the AU plans.
The arguments and objections from business community and manufactures in Nigeria is understandable because while the countries that are pushing for the CFTA, including Morocco, Egypt or Tunisia, are smaller than Nigeria in terms of national resources “in terms of development they are far ahead.
On a positive note, East African Community (EAC), this counts Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda among its members. Since its inception, the organization has significantly improved regional cooperation.
Before the EAC came together in 2000, it took three weeks to transport goods from the Rwandan capital of Kigali to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. Now, transport time has been reduced to just four days.
With a Market of about 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion, it is expected that Africa’s trade will have to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent and have a robust efficient Intra Africa trade.