Africa free trade takes off Thursday

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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest free trade agreement by population will come into force on May 30.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said over the weekend that the required 22 ratifications have been received.

The latest two ratifications, Sierra Leone and the Sahrawi Republic, were received by the African Union (AU) on April 29.

All but three (Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria) of Africa’s 55 countries have signed up to the deal.

The UN said if Nigeria joins the AfCFTA then intra-African trade could grow by more than 50 percent in the next five years.

According to statistics, cited by the ministry, when the agreement enters into force it will affect more than 1.2 billion people, with a total domestic product of about $3.4 trillion. It will cut duties on 90 percent of goods on the continent.

The deal could boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent, the UN said.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame hailed it as a “new chapter in African unity.”

The African Union’s trade commissioner Albert Muchanga said: “When you look at the African economies right now, their basic problem is fragmentation.”

AfCFTA becomes the world’s largest free trade agreement by size of population later this week and Korean blockchain company ICON (ICX) are already positioning to enable the African digital economy to scale so as to accommodate the expected boost in trade.

The private network element behind the ICON blockchain, took to the stage at the Transform Africa Summit in Rwanda earlier this month to outline their plans to support African pilot projects and expand the reach of the African developing nations.

Also taking part in the summit – where ICONLOOP were the sole blockchain company to join the panel discussion and booth operations – were global tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Huawei.

The event was attended by the President of Rwanda as well as minister-level government officials from other African nations, Estonia and Japan and proved to be a precursor to the AfCFTA trade deal ratification announcement.

AfCFTA has been a cornerstone project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 development proposal for around 5 years and now counts 52 of the 55 countries of Africa as signatories, with just Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria yet to join the deal.

In an interview with Fortune, Albert Muchanga, the African Union’s trade commissioner, said the fragmented approach to trade had deterred major investment and that with AfCFTA “We’re moving away from fragmentation, to attract long-term and large-scale investment.”

While other blockchains, such as Cardano, have made significant inroads into African countries, by their prominence at the recent summit ICON appear to be in a strong position to partake in the various technological and procedural restructuring AfCFTA is expected to generate.

Even before their official launch, ICON was recognised as potentially fulfilling the role of connecting companies within it’s home country of South Korea but an early promotional video from the summer of 2017 showed that ICON had a more global focus where their decentralised network could be accessed by any blockchain.