African countries have agreed to start trading on the basis of the rules and protocols established under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, 2021.
The agreement was reached over the weekend during the 13th extra-ordinary session of the continent’s newest trading block.
Said African Union (AU) chairman President Cyril Ramaphosa: “And now, we are about to witness the realisation of one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063.
“Throughout this process, we have stood united, with 55 sovereign AU Member States rallying together, despite different levels of economic development and diverse strategic priorities.
“The commencement of trading under the AfCFTA on the 1st of January 2021 is one of the most significant milestones in the continental integration project.”
According to the chairman, AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade, promote industrialisation and competitiveness and contribute to job creation, and unleash regional value chains that will facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy.
The regional free trade area will also improve the prospects of Africa as an attractive investment destination.
And it is also expected to help advance the empowerment of Africa’s women, by improving women’s access to trade opportunities which will in turn facilitate economic freedom for women, and expand the productive capacity of countries.
“To support this, we must strengthen women’s participation in the continental economy by ensuring there is greater public procurement earmarked for women-owned businesses. We must ensure that there is sufficient support given to women-owned SMMEs and cooperatives in both local and regional economies,” said Mr Ramaphosa.
AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed satisfaction on the milestone achieved in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
He said it is the fulfilment of the dream long aspired by the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity, who have always wanted to create an African common market.
The AfCFTA has been long in coming, starting with the signing in 1991 of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, followed by the signing in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, during which 44 countries signed the Agreement, and it is with great satisfaction that in record time 34 countries have ratified the legal instrument on the AfCFTA
AfCFTA, through its main goal of integrating African economies, will put African economies on a better footing. AfCFTA will be the largest trade agreement as it promises to create a continental trade bloc of 1,3 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$3,4 trillion.
Although several African countries lack significant industrial capability, experts agree that to be able to take advantage of opportunities that will be created by AfCFTA, these economies must work on improving their productive capacities so as to meet the new demand.