Working Papers

How will the AfCFTA live up to all the Expectations?

How will the AfCFTA live up to all the Expectations?

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13 Apr 2020

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

Many commentators expect (and argue) that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be the harbinger of far-reaching and swift change in and for Africa. This continental trade regime will bring about economic, commercial, integration and political outcomes not seen before. The AfCFTA is also expected to serve as a new platform for engaging the outside world. It is assumed that this Free Trade Area (FTA) already exists, because an Agreement establishing the AfCFTA has entered into force. Many applaud the fact that it took a relatively short period of time for the African Union (AU) to wrap up the process for adopting the necessary legal instruments.

The AfCFTA is a very necessary initiative. It could make a much-needed contribution to intra-African trade governance by improving customs administration, tackling non-tariff barriers, and establishing structures for regulating intra-African trade in services. This will take time, require domestic reforms within the State Parries as well as dedicated and coordinated action by their governments. Their efforts should preferably be anchored in well-designed and legally binding undertakings.

When assessed from this practical perspective, expectations about how the AfCFTA will realise its goals should focus on those aspects which will address long-standing challenges associated with overlapping membership of regional trade arrangements, domestic capacity deficits, inefficiency, corruption and bad governance. Establishing a comprehensive and efficient partnership for the whole continent will be a remarkable accomplishment.


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