How the AfCFTA began and evolved
African economic integration has a long history, but 10 years ago the African Union (AU) Assembly adopted a decision that put matters on a new course. This decision dealt with boosting intra-African trade and fast tracking the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), as it was then called.
When announced, the strategy for a continental trade arrangement contained little in terms of technical detail but chose to align existing African trade arrangements (the Regional Economic Community (REC) Free Trade Areas (FTAs)) with a new African continental trade regime. The fact that the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was singled out as the first milestone event for a continental trade deal, is notable. Looking back, the TFTA made a significant contribution in terms of the principles on which the subsequent AfCFTA was built. The recognition that the REC FTAs would continue with the implementation of their own integration agendas and that other intra-African regional integration initiatives should be supported, was a deliberate and important choice. The 2012 AU Assembly decision laid the foundation for subsequent African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) deliberations and outcomes.
In June 2015, the AU Assembly met in Johannesburg and adopted the Declaration on the launch of the AfCFTA negotiations. It again emphasised the importance of building the CFTA on existing regional Free Trade Areas and congratulated the COMESA, EAC and SADC Member/Partner States on launching the TFTA in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in June 2015. It called this event “a great achievement towards continental integration to be emulated by other regions.” This Trade Report discusses the TFTA and the impact it has on the AfCFTA negotiations in Africa’s quest for greater continental integration.
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