Working Papers

Ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement: What happens next?

Ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement: What happens next?

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30 Apr 2019

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

In January 2012, the African Union (AU) decided to establish a Continental Free Trade Area “to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union”. On 21 March 2018, at an Extraordinary AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, the AfCFTA Agreement was formally adopted.

The Agreement is set to enter into force thirty days after the 22nd instrument of ratification is deposited with the African Union Commission Chairperson. It has been announced that this will happen on 30 May 2019. The African Ministers of Trade are to meet during the first week of June to consider the work on tariff concessions and the rules of origin, which are essential elements for a free trade area. The Ministers of Trade will also review the work on the online non-tariff barrier notification mechanism, digital payments and settlement platform and the African Trade Observatory portal.

What happens once the required number of ratifications have been deposited? Is it true, as some tweets proclaim, that the “world’s largest trading bloc” then factually exists? Or, as one correspondent recently asked: After the agreement enters into force, does that mean that the African continent is a free trade area?

In order to answer these and other frequently asked questions about the AfCFTA, and to clarify the bigger picture, this working paper discusses and explains certain aspects of this new trade arrangement by consulting the legal instruments which are being adopted as part of the process of establishing the AfCFTA.


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