The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will no longer start on July 1st this year because of the disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.
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Following the webinar meeting on the ‘Political Economy of COVID-19: Implications for AfCFTA,’ the Secretary-General, AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene said the date has been shifted till may be January 1, 2021:
“It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances.”
Going further, Mene also notes that the shift is the best thing to do in other to allow participating governments combat the coronavirus,
“I think that’s the responsible thing to do. I don’t think it would be appropriate when people are dying to be focused on meeting the July 1st deadline. Instead, all governments should be allowed to concentrate their efforts on fighting the pandemic and saving lives at home.”
AfCFTA is a free trade agreement which as of 2018 includes 28 countries. The free trade agreement is the world’s largest in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Once fully operational, the free trade area will cover a market of over 1.3 billion people, and could speed up intra-African trade by 60 percent in three years. This is expected to generate a gross domestic product (GDP) of up to $2.5 trillion.
The agreement was arranged by African Union (AU) and was signed on by 44 states out of its 55 participating member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.
At first, the agreement requires members to remove tariffs from 90 percent of goods, allowing free movement and access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
The AU summit which South Africa was to host on 30th May, 2020 to allow trade negotiators to complete their bargaining on tariff reductions, rules of origin and other needed regulations, may now only happen earliest in November or December.