African leaders agreed to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, but its two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, declined to join.
The African Union launched talks in 2015 to establish a 55-nation bloc that would be the biggest in the world by number of participating states, aiming to increase intra-regional trade, which constitutes 15% of Africa’s total commerce.
Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, host of an AU summit called to conclude the initial negotiations, declared a success after 44 African nations signed up to establish the free trade bloc within 18 months. It were no explanations of South Africa and Nigeria decision to restrain from joining the project. However South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said he is reflecting upon creating of pan-African currency.
The project needed a minimum of 22 countries signing up to get off the ground and Kagame said the aim number of members is reached. Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau declared as participants of the free-trade zone.
“What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers and entrepreneurs,” Kagame declared.