Forty-nine out of the 55 members of the African Union have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, said AU chairperson Paul Kagame.
Kagame, who is also the Rwandan president, made the announcement in Nouakchott during the closing ceremony of the 31st summit of the 55-member African Union.
South Africa, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Lesotho and Burundi signed the AfCFTA in Nouakchott.
Chad and Swaziland ratified the agreement, which brings the total number of ratification to six.
A minimum of 22 ratifications are required to enable the AfCFTA to come into force, while 15 ratifications for the protocol on free movement of persons, right of residence and right of establishment.
The AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, according to the AU.
It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, according to the pan-African bloc.
The AU said the deal was expected to improve the economic prosperity of the African nations removing barriers to trade, like tariffs and import quotas, allowing the free flow of goods and services between its members.
However, Nigeria and five other countries failed to sign the deal.
Countries that signed the AfCFTA Consolidated Text are Niger, Rwanda, Angola, CAR., Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, The Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Cote’d’Ivoire, Seychelles, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea.
Others are Morocco, Swaziland, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, DRC, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, South Sudan, Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principle, Togo and Tunisia.