AfCFTA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the AfCFTA?
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is, in addition to being a free trade area, a flagship project of the African Union (AU) in terms of Agenda 2063. It offers a member-driven blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable development across the continent. It is anchored in an overarching Agreement, Protocols and additional Annexes and appendices. They constitute a single undertaking. The AU Summit adopted the AfCFTA Agreement in March 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda.
The general objectives of the AfCFTA, are, according to its own Agreement, to:
create a liberalised market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiations
contribute to the movement of capital and natural persons and facilitate investments by building on the initiatives and developments in the State Parties and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
lay the foundation for a Continental Customs Union at a later stage; to promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality and structural transformation of the State Parties
enhance the competitiveness of the economies of State Parties
resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
The AfCFTA’s specific objectives are to:
progressively eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods
progressively liberalise trade in services; cooperate on investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy
cooperate on all trade-related areas; cooperate on customs matters and the implementation of trade facilitation measures
establish a mechanism for the settlement of disputes
establish and maintain an institutional framework for the implementation and administration of the AfCFTA.
What do the AfCFTA legal instruments cover?
The AfCFTA Agreement is the founding agreement of the AfCFTA. It establishes the African Continental Free Trade Area and provides for Protocols on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, Intellectual Property Rights, and Competition Policy.
The AfCFTA negotiations take place in phases. Phase I covers trade in goods and services as well as dispute settlement. Phase II covers intellectual property rights, investment, and competition policy. A Phase III has been added and will cover E-Commerce.
The AfCFTA Agreement, Protocol on Trade in Goods, Protocol on Trade in Services and Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes (and their annexes and appendices) officially entered into force on 30 May 2019. However, the negotiations to finalise the rules of origin, schedules of tariff concessions, and schedules of specific commitments for the five priority services sectors (business services; communications; finance; tourism and transport) are ongoing. The deadline to finalise these negotiations was June 2021; however, this deadline was missed.
Trade under AfCFTA rules can only happen once all the legal arrangements are in place, but the AU Summit decided in December 2020 to allow trade under the reciprocal offers already extended as part of the Phase I negotiations. This has not happened, and at the 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU (5-6 February 2022), Heads of State and Government decided that “commercially meaningful trade” should begin at a date to be determined.