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10 Fast Facts about the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

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By: Shira Aliza Petrack

  1. The AfCFTA stands for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

  2. 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.

  3. The AfCFTA negotiations were originally launched as an AU project and are member-driven, so all AU members participate in the negotiations, including those members that have not ratified the Agreement.

  4. The AfCFTA will eventually comprise several legal instruments covering trade in goods, trade in services, dispute settlement, investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights.

  5. 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.

  6. Eritrea is the only African country not to have signed the AfCFTA Agreement (yet).

  7. 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.

  8. Schedules of preferential tariff concessions and preferential rules of origin are still being finalized.

  9. Trading under the AfCFTA Agreement was due to commence on 1 July 2020, but as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this date was postponed. The new date for operationalisation has been set for 1 January 2021 – even though trading can’t commence without a decision on tariff concessions and preferential rules of origin.

  10. The institutions responsible for the implementation, facilitation, administration, monitoring and evaluation of the AfCFTA include the Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Committee of Senior Trade Officials, the Secretariat and various technical committees.

    • The Assembly of the AfCFTA is the AU Assembly consisting of all AU Heads of State and Government. It provides oversight and guidance on the AfCFTA.

    • The Council of Ministers comprises Ministers for Trade of the State Parties. It will take decisions on all matters under the AfCFTA Agreement, and reports to the Assembly through the Executive Council of the AU.

    • The Committee of Senior Trade Officials comprises Permanent Secretaries or other officials designated by State Parties. It is responsible for the development of programmes and action plans for the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement.

    • The Secretariat is the administrative organ to coordinate the implementation of the AfCFTA. It is expected to be functional by 31st March 2020. It will be based in Accra, Ghana.

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