The formal launch of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) area here on Sunday by African Union marks a turning point in the free movement of people and goods between member states and paving way for development of the continent, officials said.
The 55th extraordinary summit of the African Union Heads of State saw the launch of the implementation phase of the AfCFTA, which seeks to integrate economies of member states and increase employment opportunities for the people, especially the youth.
Implementation of the AfCFTA has been lethargic with some African leaders seemingly reluctant to adopt the concept out of fear of losing their hold on power.
Some African leaders fear that opening up their countries to the outside world would result in their people being enlightened about democracy and governance and start agitating for more freedoms which they are being denied.
Other countries are lagging behind in development and therefore feel that they cannot move together with those that have moved forward.
The AfCFTA seeks to remove barriers to trade and movement of people among countries on the continent to accelerate development.
Many African leaders are determined to ensure establishment of the AfCFTA succeeds in order to lift the living standards of their people.
At least 44 countries signed the agreement to establish the AfCFT in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018 with 22 ratifications required for it to come into force.
The Treaty came into force in May this year after 24 member states ratified. So far 54 states have signed the agreement with Nigeria and Benin signing at the Niamey extraordinary summit.