The agreement came into force on May 30, 2019 after ratification by 24 of 54 African nations.
Another achievement in Africa’s quest for greater economic integration was made on May 30, 2019 when the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, took effect, agency reports said. African Heads of States and Governments fashioned out the deal at the African Union, AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.
Though the continental free trade agreement has legally come into effect, the countries that have signed up have until July 2019 to work out the details of how it will operate. This decision is expected to be made on July 7, 2019. So far, only 24 African countries of the 54 have ratified the trade agreement. Burkina Faso was the latest country to join when it signed up on May 29, 2019.
The African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, celebrated the news on Twitter: “Historic milestone! AfCFTA agreement has come into force! We celebrate the triumph of bold, pragmatic and continent-wide commitment and economic integration. We launch market on 7 July, 2019 and begin the journey of transformation to secure inclusive prosperity,” Muchanga tweeted.
The agreement is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of goods, people and investments, similar to the European Union. Experts say it will boost trade in Africa and strengthen the continent’s position in global trade. The UN's Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement has the potential to boost intra-Africa trade by 53 per cent. The African Union says that if all countries signed up, AfCFTA will become the largest free trade area since the creation of the World Trade Organization, WTO in 1995 with 164 countries.
Currently, Africa trades far less with itself than it does with the rest of the world. The African Continental Free Trade Area covers more than a billion people and a collective Gross Domestic Product, GDP of over 2 Trillion US dollars (1,177 Trillion FCFA). It includes most of Africa’s largest economies, including South Africa and Egypt. If Nigeria - Africa’s largest economy – joins, it will give a total of 1.2 billion people and 2.3 Trillion US (1,354 Billion FCFA) in Gross Domestic Product.