With the long-sought-after agreement hailed as a historic step towards "peace and prosperity" across the continent, reports say the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed an agreement ahead of the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), during the African Union summit on July 7, 2019.
After 17 years of tough negotiations, the AU launched the "operational phase" of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in what AU commission chairman Moussa Faki had described as a "historic" moment. "An old dream is coming true, the founding fathers must be proud," said Faki, adding that AfCFTA would create "the greatest trading area in the world".
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou hailed it as "the greatest historical event for the African continent since the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963," referring to the AU's predecessor.
The agreement was given a boost when the presidents of Nigeria and Benin signed on to rapturous applause on Sunday morning at the two-day summit in Niger's capital Niamey. With Nigeria and Benin on board, 54 of the 55 AU member countries have now signed onto the deal, with holdout Eritrea announcing it will consider joining the pact.
Around 4,500 delegates and guests - including 32 heads of state and more than 100 ministers - attended the AU summit in Niamey, which has been revamped and boasts of a brand-new airport, upgraded roads, and new hotels.