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Rwanda: AU Summit - Heads of State Begin to Arrive

African Heads of State and Government as well other African leaders are expected to start arriving in the country today ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement signing due on Wednesday. 

So far, The New Times understands that 29 Heads of State and Government have confirmed attendance while 16 others delegated top government officials. 

This means that over 35 countries could sign the agreement, which seeks to make Africa the world's largest trade zone where goods and services can be traded with no restrictions among member states. 

The meeting will be preceded by Executive Council meeting which brings together foreign affairs ministers today and a business summit scheduled to take place tomorrow drawing top African business leaders and Heads of State and Government. 

Countries which confirmed their Heads of State to attend include Niger, Uganda, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, DR Congo, Togo, Mauritania, Gabon, Guinea, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Libya, Comoros, Sahrawi, Ghana, Lesotho, The Gambia, Somalia, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to organisers. 

Nigeria, the African’s largest economy yesterday announced a late minute withdrawal from the deal, stating need for additional local stakeholders’ interactions and sensitization as core reasons. 

Countries that are sending other delegates at the level of Vice President, Prime Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs include: Ivory Coast, Seychelles, Morocco, Swaziland, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Namibia, Sao Tome, Tunisia, South Sudan and Eritrea. 

The summit will also be attended by leaders of international organisations and eminent persons. 

Among those expected include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa chief, Vera Songwe, President of African Development Bank, Adesina Akinwumi and COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya. 

Others include New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Secretary-General Ibrahim Mayaki, Special Envoy of African Union Peace Fund Dr. Donald Kaberuka, former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, and Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha Gonz├ílez. 

Tomorrow's business summit is themed around leveraging the power of business to drive Africa's integration. 

The multi-stakeholder dialogue will be the first ever meeting of its kind.

The business summit will feature speeches, presentations and panel sessions with an aim to gather inputs from private sector on integrating Africa's economies. 

Among the topics to feature at the business summit include; diversification of African commodities, opportunities for one market, jobs, women and youth empowerment, reducing cost of doing business, and financing trade. 

The guarantee of a larger and easy-to-access market is expected to boost production capacities of firms in the continent leading to other benefits such as increased job creation and more tax receipts for government. 

Culled from News Times