Saad Eddine El Othmani, the Head of Government, led Morocco’s delegation to the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) held in Kigali, at which 44 African countries signed an agreement to initiate a continental free trade area (AfCFTA). He said it was a historic event that marks a major step in the process of African integration. El Othmani noted that discussions will continue through the end of the year to bring the accord into force. Noticeably absent from the initial group of signatories were Nigeria and South Africa, the largest economies in Africa, while the non-state SADR did sign the agreement, despite lacking a credible economic and legal infrastructure.
The goal of AfCFTA is to build over time a shared market for goods and services, the largest to come into being since the World Trade Organization. In many ways, these goals reflect the priorities of King Mohammed VI, who continually calls for greater coordination in regional economic development, and has promoted several multilateral projects that will support AfCFTA, including a regional offshore gas transit pipeline and gas-fueled fertilizer facilities designed specifically to boost agriculture on the continent.
According to experts, this historic pact represents a major advance for African integration and unity. The pact will enhance Africa’s position in global trade, which means new opportunities for African companies to compete and cooperate across borders and build continental reach. However, the success of the AfCFTA will depend on closer collaboration between policy makers and the private sector. In fact, at the deal’s signing, Benedict Oramah, president of the African Export-Import Bank, pledged his organization would disburse around $25 billion to support intra-African trade by 2021 under a strategy launched in anticipation of the creation of AfCFTA, according to the Wall Street Journal.