AfCFTA operational phase launched
The Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019 for the 24 countries that had deposited their instruments of ratification. This date marked 30 days after 22 countries had deposited their ratification instruments with the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson – the designated depositary for this purpose, as stipulated in Article 23 of the Agreement.
The 22-country threshold in conformity with legal provisions was reached on 29 April 2019 when Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of ratification with the depositary. To date, 27 countries have both signed and ratified the AfCFTA Agreement. Of the 55 AU member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign.
The operational phase of the AfCFTA was subsequently launched during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019. The AfCFTA will be governed by five operational instruments, i.e. the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.
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, adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area by an indicative date of 2017. This deadline was, however, not met. The Summit also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) which identifies seven priority action clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.
The AfCFTA will bring together all 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion. In terms of numbers of participating countries, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. Estimates from the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) suggest that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.
The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The AfCFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
pdfAfCFTA: a tralac guide | 4th edition, March 2019 (13.52 MB) (read the e-booklet here)
African leaders held an Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) from 17-21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, during which the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was presented for signature, along with the Kigali Declaration and the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right to Residence and Right to Establishment. In total, 44 out of the 55 AU member states signed the consolidated text of the AfCFTA Agreement, 47 signed the Kigali Declaration and 30 signed the Protocol on Free Movement.
As at 7 July 2019, only Eritrea has yet to sign the consolidated text of the AfCFTA Agreement. The legally scrubbed documents were signed on 16 May 2018:
Status of Negotiations
During the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in Addis Ababa in February 2019, H.E. Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger and Leader of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), presented a report on the status and progress made in the AfCFTA negotiations the Road Map for Finalization of Outstanding Work on Phase 1 and Conclusion of Phase II Negotiations; and Draft Guidelines for Services Negotiations under the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services.
The AU Assembly adopted the Guidelines for Development of Schedules of Specific Commitments and Regulatory Cooperation Framework for Trade in Services and the new Roadmap for finalization of AfCFTA Negotiations with a new deadline of June 2020, and requested H.E. Mahamadou to submit a progress report to the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019.
The operational phase of the AfCFTA was launched during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly on the AfCFTA in Niamey in July 2019. The AfCFTA will be governed by five operational instruments, i.e. the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.
The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019 for those countries that had deposited their instruments of ratification before this date.
According to Article 23 of the Agreement, entry into force occurs 30 days after the 22nd instrument of ratification is deposited with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) – the designated depositary for this purpose – an essential step for the AfCFTA to enter into force.
On 29 April 2019, Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of ratification with the depositary, paving the way for the AfCFTA’s entry into force. Since then, five countries have deposited their instruments of ratification. Cameroon approved ratification on 19 July 2019.
Nigeria and Benin signed the AfCFTA Agreement during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019, which marked the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA Agreement. Of the 55 AU member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign the Agreement.
The 27 countries that have deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification with the AUC Chairperson are Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Congo Republic, Djibouti, Guinea, eSwatini (former Swaziland), Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Saharawi Republic, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, São Tomé and Príncipe, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
See the official status of signature and ratification as at 16 July 2019:
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.