Forty-four African countries (out of 55) signed in Kigali on Wednesday the agreement creating a continental free trade zone (ZLEC), perceived as essential to the economic development of Africa, announced the African Union (AU).

 Robert Dussey, the Togolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the document in the morning on behalf of President Faure Gnassingbé.

 The AU believes that the gradual elimination of tariffs between ZLEC members will increase the level of intra-African trade by 60% by 2022.

 Currently, only 16% of African countries trade with other countries of the continent.

To enter into force - not before 180 days - the agreement has yet to be ratified nationally by the signatory countries.

 The Togolese National Assembly should receive the text for adoption very quickly.

This Zlec is part of a process to lead by 2028 to the creation of a common market, and an economic and monetary union in Africa.

 

With undersized service and industry sectors, African countries have for decades indexed their economic performance to the price of exported commodities, such as oil, cocoa or gold.

 In recent years, countries such as Ethiopia and Ghana have tried to extricate themselves from this cycle by building factories and new infrastructure for local industries, triggering a rapid rise in economic growth.

 South Africa, a strong supporter of the agreement, believes that African economies are too small to diversify and industrialize alone.

 Zlec is one of the key projects highlighted by the AU in its Agenda 2063, a long-term development program that aims to facilitate the flow of goods and people on the continent.

 At its last summit, in January in Addis Ababa, the AU announced the creation of a single and liberalized air transport market, including 23 countries of the continent whose implementation was entrusted to the head of the Togolese state.