18th October 2019
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AFCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an inclusive undertaking for Africans from all walks of life: Government, Civil Society, Academia, Women, Youth, Diaspora, Labour, Entrepreneurs and several other stakeholders at the national level. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.

The agreement aims to achieve two strategic objectives. In the first instance, Africa will be bringing her continental integration project closer to the people. Secondly, African Union Member-States will be able to align national development policies and programmes to the African Continental Free Trade Area legal provisions and work programme. With such alignment and policy harmonisation, Africa’s prospects for rapid socio-economic development will be enhanced.

The AfCFTA ALSO aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union. In addition, it aims to resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes. The AfCFTA will bring together fifty-four African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US $3.4 trillion.

In January 2012 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the African Union adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) 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 agreement was opened for signature on 21st March, 2018 at an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Kigali, Rwanda. At that Summit, forty-four African Union Member States signed the historic Agreement.

The number rose to forty-nine at the July, 2018 Nouakchott, Mauritania Summit. Three more signatures were added during the February, 2019 Addis Ababa Summit, bringing the figure to fifty-two. It commemorated the first Anniversary of this major milestone in Africa’s resolute use of the lever of continental economic integration to deliver prosperity to her people in line with Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want

The AfCTA entered into force on 30 May 2019, thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29 April, 2019 in conformity with legal provisions.

On 7 July 2019 in Niamey, Niger, the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA was launched, after a day-long summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). The launch ceremony included “a roll call of honour”, at which the 27 countries that have ratified the instruments of the AfCFTA were announced, and those that have signed but not yet ratified were mentioned. A commemorative plaque of the signing was also unveiled.

Ghana was confirmed by the Heads of State and Government as the host of the secretariat of the AfCFTA, having prevailed over six other countries that had also expressed interest in hosting it.

Logo: Independent Newspapers Nigeria

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