African Union summit closes; bloc reaffirms member suspensions, support for trade deal

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Thursday, February 23, 2023

A map of the African Continental Free Trade Area with signatories who have not ratified the agreement in light green.
Image: Themightyquill and Curiouskiwicat.

The African Union (AU)'s annual summit ended Sunday after two days of discussions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. State leaders agreed to preserve the suspensions of four AU members and "accelerate the implementation" of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The suspended members — Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan — are under military rule following coups. Bankole Adeoye, the AU's Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, declared the group had "zero tolerance" for coups but was "ready to support these member states to return to constitutional order".

The AfCFTA, initiated in 2020, has faltered amid disagreements over tariff reductions and COVID-19 pandemic border closures. All 55 African nations but Eritrea are members of its product, the African Continental Free Trade Area, billed as the world's largest free-trade area by population. Currently, 15% of African trade occurs between African nations, which the AfCFTA aims to increase to 60% by 2034.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) released a statement Sunday saying it will maintain strict trade restrictions and sanctions against Mali and, to a lesser extent, Guinea and Burkina Faso; it is also to impose travel bans on those countries' leaders and officials. ECOWAS is advocating for the return of civilian government by 2024 in Burkina Faso and Mali and 2025 in Guinea.