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:

Status of Negotiations

During the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in Addis Ababa in February 2019, H.E. Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger and Leader of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), presented a report on the status and progress made in the AfCFTA negotiations; the Road Map for Finalization of Outstanding Work on Phase 1 and Conclusion of Phase II Negotiations; and Draft Guidelines for Services Negotiations under the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services.

The AU Assembly adopted the Guidelines for Development of Schedules of Specific Commitments and Regulatory Cooperation Framework for Trade in Services and the new Roadmap for finalization of AfCFTA Negotiations with a new deadline of June 2020, and requested H.E. Mahamadou to submit a progress report on the AfCFTA to the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly in July 2019.

pdf Report on the AfCFTA by Mahamadou Issoufou with Annexes (692 KB) - February 2019

Furthermore, the Assembly requested the African Union Ministers of Trade to:

  1. submit the Schedules of Tariff Concessions and Schedules of Specific Commitments on Trade in Services, in line with agreed modalities, to the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly in July 2019 and the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly in February 2020, respectively, for adoption; and

  2. conclude the negotiations on the Protocols on Investment, Competition Policy and Intellectual Property Rights, Trade in Services on the other seven (7) sectors beyond the five (5) priority service sectors, and submit the draft legal texts to the January 2021 Session of the Assembly for adoption, through the Specialised Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

pdf AU Assembly Decision on the African Union Continental Free Trade Area (419 KB) - February 2019

Ratification status

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement is set to enter into force on 30 May 2019. This date marks 30 days after the 22nd instrument of ratification was deposited with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) – the designated depositary for this purpose – an essential step for the AfCFTA to enter into force. 

On 29 April 2019, the last two countries to have received parliamentary approval for ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement deposited their instruments of ratification with the depositary, paving the way for the AfCFTA’s entry into force. According to Article 23 of the Agreement, entry into force occurs 30 days after the 22-country threshold is reached.

The 22 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, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Saharawi Republic. Additionally, Zimbabwe has received parliamentary approval for ratification but has yet to deposit its ratification instruments with the AUC Chairperson.

AfCFTA Ratification Barometer 30 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.

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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.