Is the AfCFTA changing the gameplan for African integration?
There may be objections to the question posed in the title of this paper. Some may argue that the Abuja Treaty (adopted in 1991, before the World Trade Organisation was established) is still the blueprint for Africa’s integration; there is no need for another plan. They may also point to the fact that the Preamble to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement says the AfCFTA “aims at integrating Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles enunciated in the Abuja Treaty”.
This paragraph in the Preamble expresses an intention. The AfCFTA Agreement does not contain a strategy to give effect to it, apart from mentioning certain long-term “General Objectives” in Article 3 of the AfCFTA Agreement. A clear strategy and deliberate steps will be required to deepen continental integration beyond the FTA foreseen as part of the AfCFTA scheme of things. There are no indications of such an initiative being contemplated.
The challenge facing the AfCFTA State Parties at the beginning of 2023 is to conclude the outstanding negotiations and to get the AfCFTA up and running. The full implementation of the AfCFTA package of agreements can bring about preferential trade in goods and services in Africa. That will be a major achievement but will not be easy.
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