Nigeria, Benin Sign Landmark African Trade Accord at African Union Summit

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President Muhammadu Buhari and his Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, signed a landmark African trade pact at the African Union (AU) Summit, in Niger on Sunday.

Both Presidents signed the agreement to applause at the summit in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, where the zone will officially be launched.

Fifty-four of the 55 African Union member countries signed onto the deal, with Eritrea the only holdout.

AU leaders hope the agreement, which comes after 17 years of tough negotiations, will create the world’s largest free trade area, estimating a 60-percent boost in trade between the continent’s 1.2 billion people by 2022.

The deal was given a boost when Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, announced last week it would join the pact in Niamey, after having unexpectedly pulled back from the agreement last year.

The pact was further buoyed as Benin’s agreement meant Eritrea was the sole African country not to sign on.