Africa’s free trade area requires the support of just one additional country to become a reality.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame said while opening the Africa CEO Forum at the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda that 21 countries had ratified the Continental Free Trade Area deal.
Ethiopia last week took the agreement through Parliament, becoming the 21st country to do so.
For the trade deal that would create a market of $3 trillion and 1.2 billion people with no tariff and border restrictions to be enforceable, 22 countries are required to ratify it.
The deal was negotiated over two years before being signed in Kigali last year.
In panel discussions, Mr Kagame said political will was key to resolving challenges that confront regional economic groups.
"CFTA does not solve problems people have to make it work,” Mr Kagame said in reaction to suggestions that countries were hesitant to ratify the agreement because of past experiences with integration such as dumping.
“What is important is that the benefits of other arrangements and CFTA are not being questioned. It’s the only way to maximise on benefits such as job creation for the continent. Political will must come first as it allows things that must work to work,” Mr Kagame said.
The seventh edition of The Africa CEO Forum opened with four presidents and three other heads of government calling for leading decision makers to help realise the ambition of CFTA. More than 1,800 business and political leaders are in attendance.
They are led by Mr Kagame, Ethiopia President Sahle-Work Zewde, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and Togo President Faure Gnassingbe.
“We are here to ensure that the CFTA becomes a reality,” said Amir Ben Yahmed, president of the Africa CEO forum.
He said integration was key to enhancing growth and creating jobs in Africa because globalisation was slowing down, robotics was hindering shift of production hubs into the continent and big economic powers were on the verge of a trade war.