Fifty Africans countries have signed at least one of the three proposed legal instruments which are set to open the borders to make the continent the largest trading bloc in the world.
It was a historic moment on Tuesday as leaders from 44 of the 55 African Union member states appended their signatures on the Continental Free Trade area (AfCFTA) agreement.
President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, who is has been dubbed the champion of the free trade deal across the continent was the first to sign on behalf of his country, followed by President Paul Kagame.
President Kagame is the current Chairperson of the African Union.
Three hours later, 44 countries had signed the AfCFTA, 43 signed the Kigali declaration and 27 countries agreed to ease mobility of people across the continent by signing the protocol on movement of people across Africa.
Some countries signed all the three legal instruments at once but 50 countries signed at least one of the three documents which, according to Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, was way beyond what they expected.
Right before the signing of these instruments, sources privy to the proceedings say that not more than 27 countries would sign the deal.
In the middle of signing exercise, Mahamat picked up the microphone and said that "more than forty countries had agreed to sign"--receiving a resounding applause from the audience.
Right after, Mahamat took to twitter and announced; "Signing intentions by Member States go way beyond our expectations. Extremely proud that more than 40 are now expected and currently in progress."
According to Mahamat, the agreement goes beyond opening borders for business but gives Africans a sense of belonging.
"It is important that Africans stop being foreigners on their own continent while others freely circulate there," he said.
According to the AU Commission Chair, the wish is to see all African Countries adopts the free trade area agreement and ratify it so that it enters into force before the end of 2018.
While speaking at the opening ceremony of the 10th Extraordinary Summit of African Union, President Kagame noted that the signing of these agreements, expresses unity in moving the continent forward.
“Taken together, these are surely to be counted among the most consequential actions that this Assembly has ever taken," he said.
He added: "The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritising the production of value-added goods and services that are “Made in Africa” he said.
The Chairperson of the Private Sector Federation, Robert Bafakulera told The New Times that the deal will certainly open up wider market from region producers and manufacturers hence creating competitiveness.
"This means growth of Africa, growth of our countries and unity in Africa," Bafakulera said.
At least 11 countries including one of Africa's biggest economies Nigeria, and South Africa, plus Burundi, Lesotho, Namibia, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau abstained from the free trade area agreement.
South Africa however signed the Kigali Declaration for the launch of the AfCFTA.
However, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry told The New Times that the countries that have not signed yet, most of them will sign by July, when the next continental meeting convenes.
"They are still in consultations and when they finish they will come on board." he said.