President Adama Barrow of the Gambia will Tuesday morning leave for Kigali, Rwanda, to attend the extraordinary  meeting of the heads of state of the African Union.

Mr Barrow who will be accompanied by a large delegation will Wednesday join other African leaders to sign an agreement that will launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (the AfCFTA), making the continent the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

The extraordinary meeting of the heads of state of the African Union is convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is also the chairperson of the AU.

Mr Kagame has described the AfCFTA as a “historic pact which has been nearly 40 years in the making, and it represents a major advance for African integration and unity.”

A day before the signing, government delegations will join Africa’s top business leaders and other stakeholders to exchange views on the continent’s economic transformation through trade at a special day of celebration and dialogue called the AfCFTA Business Summit.

The progressive trade liberalisation of Africa in the years ahead will mean new opportunities for African companies to compete and cooperate across borders and build continental reach. However the success of the AfCFTA will depend on closer collaboration between policy makers and the private sector.

The AfCFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The Free Trade Area has the potential to transform the fortunes of millions of Africans by boosting trading ties between Africa’s nations.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has unexpectedly cancelled his planned visit to Rwanda. This comes a day after Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari also opted out of the Kigali conference, saying he wanted further domestic consultation on the continental deal that would remove trade barriers and eventually allow free movement.