African Continental Free Trade Area comes into force today, May 30, 2019

Today May 30, 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement has come into force. The Agreement which will create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create a  single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, is expected to speed up the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

According to the African Union Commission (AUC) it is expected to expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general, among others.

The decision for the AfCFTA was adopted at the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012. It was agreed that the deal should be reached by an indicative date of 2017. The Summit also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) which identifies seven clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.

The AfCFTA will be launched on July 7, 2019 in Niamey, Niger.

On May 23, 2019, Zimbabwe became the 23rd African state to deposit its instrument of ratification of the Agreement with the African Union Commission. 22 countries are required to fulfill that requirement to bring the African Continental Free Trade Area into effect.

On May 29, Burkina Faso became the 24th country to deposit its instrument of ratification with the AUC.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day Stakeholder Dialogue on Continental Trade and Strengthening Implementation of the AfCFTA, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, organized by the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), May 27 and 28, 2019, Mr. Kwesi Quartey, the Vice Chair of the AUC, said Africa is on the brink of a great break through. He indicated that with the AfCFTA in operation, Africa with a population of 1.2 billion could have a GDP of $4.5 trillion.

Effectively, the Area will be the largest in the world, with potential to increase job creation.

Of the 55 member countries, 52 have signed the Agreement, the other three yet to sign are Nigeria, Benin and Eritrea, 24 countries have ratified the Agreement and have deposited the instruments with the AUC, and 20 countries are in the process of ratifying the Agreement.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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