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The African Continental Free Trade Area

  • C3 - Centrum für Internationale Entwicklung 3 Sensengasse Wien, Wien, 1090 Austria (map)

With inputs by

Karl Aiginger, Querdenker Plattform Europa

Jimmy Ebi Patrick, Counsellor on Economic Affairs. Nigerian Embassy

Youssouf Diakité, ADYFE, African Diaspora Youth Forum Europe

Moderation: Million Berhe, Specht&Partner

 

Background: As at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Niamey, Niger, on 7 July, 2019, all African states, with the exception of Eritrea, have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). On 30 May 2019, 27 AU states had ratified the agreement, which enabled it to enter into force. After years of negotiations the AfCFTA will become the world's largest free trade zone by county coverage, with a market of 1.2 billion people. It is expected  amongst other things to  increase intra-African trade, which in 2017 was only 17% of foreign trade. By comparison, European domestic trade amounts to 69%.

Following the achievement of the political agreement, the AfCFTA is now at its operational phase, and this raises several practical and technical questions as to the implementation of the operational instruments. The newly established AfCFTA office in Accra will be in charge of the implementation. Trading under the AfCFTA will commence on the 1 July 2020. In a further phase of negotiations, topics such as investment, competition policy or intellectual property rights will be discussed and should be adopted by the end of 2020. In the long term, up to 90% of tariffs on goods are to be reduced and services liberalized.

What is the status quo of this agreement? What are the political and technical obstacles of this project? What measures are being taken to handle the expected growth in continental trade, which will require additional infrastructure, border management, harmonization of customs, and payment systems to name but few?  How will  small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and  the dominant informal economy participate and benefit? How will it contribute towards gender equality and ascertain the participation of women? What role do African regional organizations play?  Does the AfCFTA guarantee free movement of persons?