KIGALI-- Zimbabwe's President Emerson Mnangagwa has arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, to attend an Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) to approve and seal an African free trade area.

He will join 54 other African Heads of State and Government at Wednesday's summit which will witness the historic signing of an agreement to launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will make Africa the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

President Mnangagwa, who is accompanied by Industry Minister Mike Bimha, Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo and Transport Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, was received on arrival here Monday by Rwanda's Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, and Zimbabwe's Ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU, Albert Chimbindi.

Current AU Chairperson Rwandan President Paul Kagame who is convening the summit, said of the AfCFTA: "This is a historic pact which has been nearly 40 years in the making, and it represents a major advance for African integration and unity."

AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki said the AfCFTA would also strengthen position of the continent in global trade. The AfCFTA will make Africa one of the largest economies in the world and enhance its capacity to interact on equal terms with other international economic blocs.

The AfCFTA is a flagship project of the AU's Agenda 2063, the 50-year vision adopted in 2013 for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The FTA has the potential to transform the fortunes of millions of Africans by boosting trade ties between their countries.

At the moment, Africa trades more with the rest of the world than it does with itself with intra-Africa trade standing at about 16 per cent compared with 19 percent intra-regional trade in Latin America, 51 per cent in Asia, 54 per cent in North America and 70 per cent in Europe.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-Africa trade by 53 per cent by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers. It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion US dollars.