>> Creating an African single market spanning the vast continent just got a step closer, these leaders hope.>> Taken together.>> 44 countries signed a historic free trade deal on Wednesday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. But the absence of two titans cast a shadow, neither Nigeria nor South Africa signed up, though an African Union official said he expected them to join soon.
Reuters' Duncan Miriri in Kigali says inter-African trade is currently measly, and many blame that for the continent's enduring poverty.>> Trade among African nations is estimated 15% of the total commerce on the continent. And this is blamed on a host factors including high tariffs for goods crossing borders, lack of a proper transport infrastructure like roads and railways on the continent, as well as petty corruption on border crossing points.
>> The tiny size of most African markets discourages investment, both national and from abroad. But inking the paper is one thing, getting governments to allow the free flow of goods in practice is another.>> Now that is a huge challenge, given that the continent already has a number of smaller existing trade blocks where you have same member states quarreling.
A good example is here in east Africa where the six nation east Africa community has seen its fair share of quarrels with Tanzania kicking out some Kenyan executives sent by Kenyan companies to work there. And we've also seen Tanzanian authorities impounding imports from Kenya in the recent past leading to a quarrel between the two countries.
>> Talks started in 2015 to found the block, which would be the biggest in the world by member states, potentially creating a colossal free trade zone that will encompass 1.2 billion people.