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The AfCFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments.

The meeting in Kigali is meant to formally launch the African Continental Free Trade Area Treaty, which would create a common market across the Continent - much like the EU.

The AfCFTA will induce an increase in intra-African trade of 52% by 2022 and significantly increase Africa's industrial and agricultural exports, according to Mahamat. President Buhari of Nigeria has called for more talks with business leaders.

This was after his cabinet had endorsed the AfCFTA.

"If we want to industrialize and create the needed jobs for our young population, the Continental Free Trade agreement is the way to go".

Buhari's decision to skip the signing ceremony arose from the objection raised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to the treaty.

Other expected leaders at the historic signing include Niger, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Togo, Mauritania, Gabon, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Libya, Comoros, Sahrawi, Lesotho, Gambia, and Angola.

The signing of this agreement represents a major step forward and another milestone for African integration and unity. The road to this point has been long indeed. But while the European Union took more than half a century to establish itself with 28 members, economists such as Ikiara expect it will take years - not decades - for Africa.

Other countries will be hampered by their poor infrastructure, corruption and ineffective customs documentation, the report said. African market is 1.2 billion and we are 180 million. "Because, once the ... interconnectivity is improved, the private sector becomes even more effective".

"The objective of today's forum is to discuss how to make the most of the new opportunities we are creating for ourselves", he added.

Handshakes, smiles and jubilation accompanied the long-awaited launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area on Wednesday in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.

A massive new African trade deal has been signed, which means that trade will flow between countries with no (or much lower) import tariffs.

"Let's also be realistic".

Similar sentiments were expressed by Mentoria Consulting Managing Director Ken Gichinga who said the pact will remove trade barriers that have hindred free trade in the continent. After it is signed, there will still be challenges.

With the AfCFTA, Africa can affirm its position as a global economic power, she added.

When contacted yesterday, the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Frank Jacobs, said manufacturers were not carried along in the previous negotiations.

According to him, MAN is apprehensive that the Rules of Origin in the AfCFTA can not be adequately enforced to guard against influx of European Union (EU) goods into the Nigerian market.

Countries are encouraged to pay more attention to common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli and Listeria, to notify WHO of listeriosis outbreaks in line with the International Health Regulations (2005), and to make use of WHO guidelines to strengthen surveillance of and response to the foodborne disease. The agreement will be submitted for ratification by state parties before it can enter into force. "The next is the protocol on trade in goods and associated annexes; also a protocol on trade in services, and finally, the protocol on rules and procedures for the settlement of disputes", Enelamah said.

"We must do so rapidly", she said.

AfCFTA will now have to be ratified by individual countries.