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CFTA sees 44 African nations signing the pact

Forty-four African countries have signed an agreement establishing a free trade area, seen as vital to the continent's economic development says the head of the African Union. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson, AU Commission says the agreement establishing CFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) was signed by 44 countries. The creation of a free trade area billed as the world’s largest - comes after two years of negotiations, and is one of the AU's flagship projects for greater African integration.

However, other economic powerhouses South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and Algeria known for strict protectionist policies restricting imports and exports. The agreement will still have to be ratified at a national level, and is only due to come into force in 180 days.

The full list of countries which did not sign the agreement is not yet available, however, Nigeria is a notable absentee after President Muhammadu Buhari pulled out of the launch in Rwanda saying he needed more time for consultations at home. Nigeria, one of Africa's largest markets, hesitated after objections from business leaders and unions a sign that getting the deal through scores of national parliaments may face several hurdles.

Albert Muchanga, the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry says that some countries have reservations and have not finalised their national consultations. But it shall have another summit in Mauritania in July where countries with reservations sign is expected.