African Continental Free Trade Area agreement

AfCFTA in effect, but lifting non-tariff barriers is still problematic

On January 1, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) came into effect, eliminating tariffs on 90% of goods produced on the continent. All African Union members except for Eritrea, have signed the AfCFTA deal, and 34 out of 54 signatories have ratified the agreement. However, for the agreement to be successful, countries must address more nuanced non-tariff barriers. More attention should also go to building regional value chains.

“Africa is now trading under new rules, new preferences, because we want to build a single, integrated market on the African continent,” Wamkele Mene, secretary general of the AfCFTA, stated on January 12. “And I know that in some parts of the world, we get criticism. We are criticised, we are told that we are rushing things, that we’re actually not quite ready. But I want to ask those who hold that view, tell me of a trade agreement where all countries were ready at the same time? I don’t know it.”

African corporate entities are optimistic about the trade pact. “The fruit industry is hoping that this will create a regional boost. East and West Africa are strong markets, and free access to those will be attractive to South African producers,” Antonella Da Cunha, group risk manager at Capespan, a South Africa-based fruit exporter, told GTR.

“These agreements are mutually beneficial as importers have, over the years, struggled to import due to duties and costs created by their governments.”

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