African leaders launch free-trade zone
African leaders launched a continental free-trade zone on Sunday that, if successful, would unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4trn (€3trn) economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.
After four years of talks, an agreement to form a 55-nation trade bloc was reached in March, paving the way for Sunday's African Union summit in Niger, where Ghana was announced as the host of the trade zone's headquarters.
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It is hoped that the African Continental Free Trade Area - the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1994 - will help unlock economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, strengthening supply chains and spreading expertise.
Members have committed to eliminate tariffs on most goods. "The eyes of the world are turned towards Africa," Egyptian President and African Union chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said at the summit's opening ceremony.
Intra-regional trade in Africa accounted for just 17pc of exports in 2017, versus 59pc in Asia and a figure of 69pc in Europe, while Africa has missed out on the economic booms that other trade blocs have experienced in recent decades.