African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Legal Texts and Policy Documents

African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Legal Texts and Policy Documents

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The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area by an indicative date of 2017. The Summit also endorsed the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) which identifies seven priority action clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.

African leaders held an Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) from 17-21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, during which the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was presented for signature, along with the Kigali Declaration and the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right to Residence and Right to Establishment. In total, 44 out of the 55 AU member states signed the consolidated text of the AfCFTA Agreement, 47 signed the Kigali Declaration and 30 signed the Protocol on Free Movement.

As at end-March 2019, only three countries have yet to sign the consolidated text of the AfCFTA Agreement: Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria.

pdf Legal instruments signed at the Summit launching the AfCFTA, 21 March 2018 (323 KB)

pdf Protocol to the Abuja Treaty relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, adopted 29 January 2018 (3.80 MB)

pdf Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA: Kigali Draft text (consolidated), March 2018 (2.83 MB)

The legally scrubbed documents, signed on 16 May 2018, are available below:

Ratification status

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement will enter into force 30 days after 22 instruments of ratification have been deposited with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) – the designated depositary for this purpose. This is an essential step for the AfCFTA to enter into force.

On 2 April 2019, Gambia became the 22nd country to complete the domestic process required, in terms of its Constitution, to ratify the AfCFTA. To complete the ratification process, it needs still to deposit its instrument of ratification with the AUC Chairperson.

As at 16 April, 20 of the 22 countries that have received parliamentary approval have deposited their instruments of ratification (usually a diplomatic letter confirming ratification of the Agreement) with the depositary, paving the way for the AfCFTA’s entry into force. This means that only 2 more countries have to deposit their instruments of ratification with the AUC Chairperson to reach the 22-member threshold. Thirty (30) days after this threshold is reached, the AfCFTA will enter into force.

The 20 countries that have deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification with the AUC Chairperson are Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Congo Republic, Djibouti, Guinea, eSwatini (former Swaziland), Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Ethiopia and The Gambia. The two countries that have obtained parliamentary approval for ratification but still need to deposit their instruments of ratification with the depositary are Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

AfCFTA Ratification Barometer 16 04 2019

Infographic: Status of AfCFTA ratification

pdf AfCFTA Questions and Answers (FAQs) (553 KB)  (updated April 2019)

pdf AfCFTA: a tralac guide | 4th edition, March 2019 (13.52 MB)  (read the e-booklet here)

The AfCFTA will bring together all 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion. In terms of numbers of participating countries, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. Estimates from the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) suggest that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are 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. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The AfCFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

* Please note: Full access to these resources requires registration to the tralac website.


Research and analysis

tralac has been monitoring the AfCFTA negotiations with keen interest. Several papers, briefs and discussion notes have been published to encourage debate and inform government officials, policymakers, and interested stakeholders on key issues involved in the negotiation of Africa’s own mega-regional trade agreement. A list of related outputs is available below.