South African president lauds launch of African free trade agreement
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday lauded the launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), saying the agreement will catapult the economies of many African countries onto a higher growth trajectory.
The agreement "is a milestone that fulfills a dream crafted by the founders of the Organization of African Union (OAU) 60 years ago when they conceptualized an integrated Africa," Ramaphosa said after attending the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) on July 7-8 in Niamey, Niger.
The summit marked the entry into force of the AfCFTA and formally launched the operational phase of the African Internal Market.
South Africa, Ramaphosa said, stands to significantly benefit from being part of the world's largest single market encompassing 55 countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of 3.2 trillion U.S. dollars.
Ramaphosa called the implementation of the agreement as a platform for African countries to trade among themselves and reap the benefits of the tariff-free area.
One of the key spin-offs is expected to be greater focus and urgency for infrastructure development across the continent to support economic activities, according to the president.
The AfCFTA, among its major aspirations, calls for a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investment, paving way faster establishment of a customs union.
Once fully operational, the free trade accord is projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 50 percent by the year 2022, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.