Removing import duties could potentially boost intra-African trade by more than 50%, while a reduction in non-tariff barriers will double the volume of trade, notes the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)  is a free trade area with 28 countries from 2018.     It was created by the African Free Trade Agreement between 54 of the 55 african union nations.  The free trade area is the largest in the world, in terms of the number of participating countries since the creation of the World Trade Organization.  Accra, Ghana, is the secretariat of AFCFTA and was commissioned by Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo on 18 August 2020 in Accra and handed over to the AU. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told Kigali media: “This is where our salvation lies: trade between them and therefore the development of our economies. This agreement will lead to a change in the perception of the continent by the rest of the world. The afCFTA`s perimeter is important. The agreement will reduce tariffs between Member States and cover policy areas such as trade facilitation and services, as well as regulatory measures such as hygiene standards and technical barriers to trade. Full implementation of AfCFTA would transform markets and economies across the region and boost production in the services, manufacturing and raw materials sectors.
Maria Filipa Seara e Pereira advises the World Bank in the Trade Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI). It focuses on international trade and international development issues, including modelling, trade policy, trade distribution effects and global value chains. The graph below shows the structure of the agreement for the creation of the AfCFTA. By July 2019, 54 of the 55 African Union states had signed the agreement, with Eritrea the only country not to have signed it. Of these Member States, 27 have tabled their ratification instruments.   Maryla Maliszewska – Lead Author, is Senior Economist in Trade and Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI) at the World Bank. His area of expertise covers various aspects of trade policy and regional integration, with particular emphasis on the impact of trade on poverty and income distribution. Companies frustrated by trade barriers could use a “non-tariff barrier mechanism” in the agreement to signal commitments on trade problems and ask for solutions, Muchanga says. AfCFTA is the African continent`s most ambitious integration initiative, enshrined in the African Union`s Agenda 2063, whose main objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services with the free movement of people and investment, thereby expanding intra-African trade across the continent, strengthening competitiveness and supporting the economic transition in Africa. Hartzenberg expects some of the 11 countries to sign the agreement at the next AU summit in June 2018. It advises countries to “subscribe to rules-based governance. They must implement their commitments consistently and, if they do not, there should be consequences for those countries.
This means that dispute resolution is an essential part of a rules-based AfCFTA. Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, told Africa Renewal that the African Free Trade Agreement will not be a traditional trade agreement focused on tariff reduction. Instead, the Kigali agreement aims to liberalize the services sector. Although Africa`s average growth is 3.6% in 2019/20 and the world`s fastest growing economies are on the continent, much remains to be done. Africa remains highly dependent on exports of raw materials and agricultural products, while it imports mainly capital goods or food products from abroad.