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Source: newtimes.co.rw

By: James Karuhanga


When asked what single word can best describe the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement’s journey through 2019, Carl Oshodi, the Executive Director of Nigeria’s Africa Industrialisation Group, said; “progressive.”


Indeed, nearly 22 months after the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), was signed by African leaders on March 21, 2018, in Kigali, a lot of ground has been covered in an attempt to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.


At the onset, 44 out of the 55 AU member states – except the big boys such as South Africa and Nigeria— signed the consolidated text of the agreement at the Kigali Summit.


The 44 leaders signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, a protocol on trade in goods, a protocol on trade in services and a protocol on rules and procedures on the settlement of disputes.


Gathering the 22 ratifications needed to make the agreement operational, however, would take some time, and hard work.

Nonetheless, by March 21, as countries marked the anniversary of the agreement’s signing, there was cause for celebration, especially as, among others, 21 countries had not only signed but had also ratified the agreement.

Finally, the 22-country threshold in conformity with legal provisions was reached on April 29 when Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of ratification.

The agreement eventually entered into force on May 30, 30 days after 22 countries deposited their ratification instruments, for all the 24 countries that had by then deposited their instruments of ratification.

The coming into force of the Agreement, on May 30, experts said, was a turning point for the continent, as the pact then became a binding international legal instrument.

More than a month later, on July 7, the operational phase of the pact was launched during the extraordinary session of the AU Assembly in Niamey, Niger.

The AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, hailed the launch as a “historic moment” in Africa’s history.

“The speedy entry into force of the AfCFTA has been a major pride to all of us,” Faki said.

During the same Niamey session, the President of Niger and leader of the AfCFTA process, Issoufou Mahamadou, presented his second report – the first was presented in February – on the status and progress made.

He noted that a lot of work was done to conclude major issues of the agreement.

Member states were at advanced stages in preparing their schedules of tariff concessions.

On AfCFTA rules of origin, Mahamadou observed, the remaining rules pertained to member states’ policy and investment interests. This, he said, required political intervention and guidance.

At the time, technical submissions were exhausted without consensus on areas pertaining to fisheries; edible oils; sugar; leather; textiles and apparel; machines and machinery; and motor vehicles.

Failure not an option

The July session in Niamey launched the operational phase of the AfCFTA, supported by key instruments.

These are the agreed Rules of Origin; a dashboard of the AU Trade Observatory, a Trade in Goods Password Protected Dashboard, a   Pan-African Payments and Settlements System; an AfCFTA Mobile or Web-based application, and the Online Mechanism for Reporting, Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers.

In addition, the Niamey meeting also made a number of important Decisions which included that: the AfCFTA be hosted by Ghana and that July 1, 2020, be the date to start trading within the AfCFTA regime.

It was also decided that AU Commission should ensure that the AfCFTA Secretariat is operational no later than March 31, 2020; and that July 7 every year be designated “the Africa Integration Day” without being a public holiday to commemorate the operationalization of the agreement.

Prudence Sebahizi, Chief Technical Advisor on AfCFTA at the AU Commission, said: “When the Heads of State and Government met in Niamey in July 2019, they launched the operational phase of the AfCFTA and decided that dismantling of tariffs shall start not later than July 1, 2020, to allow the start of trading within the AfCFTA regime on the same day.”

Sebahizi added: “We are working around the clock to ensure that this decision is fully implemented. Failure is not an option.”

Cameroon approved ratification on July 19.

Fast forward, on December 14-15, Ministers of Trade met in Accra, Ghana and decided that the positions of AfCFTA Secretary-General and three Directors for the AfCFTA Secretariat be advertised immediately to allow completion of recruitment by March 2020.

As of December 17, 54 AU member states had signed the AfCFTA Agreement.

Efforts are ongoing – by the AU Commission – to engage with Eritrea, the only country yet to sign, as the former prepares to sign and ratify the agreement.

So far 28 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the AUC and hence became state parties.

These are Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eswatini (Swaziland), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Saharawi Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

The Agreement will be governed by five operational instruments: the rules of origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African trade observatory.

The rules of origin, the criteria needed to determine the national source of a product, derive their importance from the fact that duties and restrictions in several cases depend upon the source of imports.

For Andrew Mold, the Acting Director of UN Economic Commission for Africa- Eastern Africa sub-regional office in Kigali, one of the main moments in 2019 was reaching 28 ratifications – more than half the continent’s countries.

The date the agreement will come into force, July 1, 2020, Mold said, “Is a major target that has been set.”

“There will be an intensification of the negotiations in a lot of areas over the first semester of 2020. Services trade negotiations have to be initiated – there is enormous potential in terms of increased intra-African services trade,” Mold said.

“In contrast with its deficit on merchandise trade, for instance, Rwanda posted a positive balance in services trade for the first time last year. Five other countries in eastern Africa actually have positive service trade balances. So, the region potentially has a lot to gain from the successful conclusion of the service trade negotiations.”

Also yet to be concluded are the rules of origin negotiations, a very important area for an effective AfCFTA, Mold noted.

The rules of origin will need to be as flexible as possible in order for poorer African countries to be able to significantly increase their intra-African trade under the AfCFTA, he said.

“I think we will find discussions also focusing on the protocols on competition, investment, intellectual property and free movement. Ultimately, for citizens to benefit from the AfCFTA there are crucial areas in the construction of the continental market.”

“Take competition policy, for instance. A recent COMESA study shows that consumers in the region typically pay 25-30 per cent more than prevailing prices globally for a set of 12 staple goods. This is ascribed to anti-competitive behaviour.”

Clearly, Mold said, if the agreement can make a positive impact in this kind of domain, by increasing intra-regional trade and investment, creating new employment opportunities and reducing prices to consumers, “it will gain a lot of popular support.”

Once implemented, the agreement which connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined Gross Domestic Product valued at $3.4 trillion will create the largest free-trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating.

Source: www.tralac.org


Ghana’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged African trade ministers and experts working on the AfCFTA implementation, to conclude all outstanding issues on time for trading to start on 1 July next year as planned. He said meeting all the deadlines set by the AU Heads of State and Government at their extra-ordinary summit in July this year, would allow the new African market commence smoothly and bring about the much anticipated socio-economic impact on the continent. “Similarly, for the effective implementation of the AfCFTA, African trade ministers must ensure that the institutional structures, that are established to support the AfCFTA, are based on practical approaches that work in Africa. Existing, as well as new AU programmes and projects aimed at supporting trade, investment and economic development in Africa, at national, regional and continental levels, must all be properly coordinated to support the implementation of the AfCFTA, and, thereby, fast track regional integration, economic growth and development,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at the 10th meeting of African Ministers of Trade and 2nd Meeting of the AfCFTA Council of Ministers in Accra on Saturday. It was for stakeholders to continue discussions towards AfCFTA implementation. Various governments, he said had the responsibility to assist this process by fashioning and implementing a comprehensive set of policies that will empower the private sector to achieve its goal. “Appropriate fiscal, monetary, financial, energy, exchange rate, tariff and non-tariff policies must be co-ordinated to enable African enterprises to be competitive, and, where possible, achieve comparative advantage.” [The Gambia hosts technical workshop on National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy].


Source: www.uneca.org


The government of The Gambia, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) are holding a technical workshop on the Gambia’s national AfCFTA implementation strategy. Experts from the public and private sector, representing government, civil society, young people, women and academia will meet from 17-18 December in Banjul, the Gambia.  

This National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy for The Gambia identifies priority actions to be undertaken by the government to effectively realize the potential benefits of the AfCFTA. The strategy identifies the following: priority products for export into various African markets, the export potentials for these priority products in various markets, opportunities for regional value chain development. 

In addition, the national strategy highlights other cross-cutting issues including gender, youth, MSMEs as well as environment and climate change in order to ensure inclusivity and sustainability. Finally, it recommends a National Implementation Committee (NIC) whose overall mandate is to oversee implementation of the strategy and a monitoring and evaluation framework that will track progress on the implementation of the Agreement.

“The National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy for the Gambia seeks to support the objectives of Gambia’s National Trade Policy of 2018-2022, which aims to focus on measures that support key productive sectors of the economy, enhance capability for increased market access, address trade facilitation issues and enhance consumer protection and welfare.  The AfCFTA Strategy does this by providing a blueprint to advance The Gambia’s deeper integration at the continental level.” says Mundunge Ghitu, Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The AfCFTA entered into force on 30 May 2019 having been ratified by the required 22 countries. Currently, 54 countries have signed, and 29 countries have ratified the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world's largest free trade area, with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. The AfCFTA has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.

The work in the Gambia on implementing the AfCFTA is part of a comprehensive project aimed at deepening Africa's trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA. Financially supported by the European Union, ECA has been working with its partners including the African Union Commission (AUC), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a selection of independent trade experts to ensure effective AfCFTA implementation strategies.

Source: www.ghananewagency.org


Ghana, under the auspices of its Ministry of Trade and Industry, will from Monday, December 09, start hosting series of meeting for African Trade Ministers and Senior Trade Officials to advance the cause of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The 17th Meeting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Negotiating Forum, will begin the seven-day meetings to be held at the Accra International Conference Centre.

An official statement, issued by the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Trade, and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Saturday, said the three-day meeting, will be followed by

the 10th meeting of the Committee of Senior Trade Officials (12th-13th December, 2019).

The African Ministers of Trade Meeting and the AfCFTA Council of Ministers Meeting will follow from 14th to 15th December, 2019.

“The 17th African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Negotiating Forum will seek to finalise outstanding works on phase one negotiations which deals with the trade in goods and services protocols as well as dispute settlement mechanisms,” the statement explained.

“Technical Working Groups on investments, competition policy and intellectual property rights will also be established”.

It said, the report of the Negotiating Forum will form the agenda for the meeting of the Senior Trade Officials from the 12th-13th December.

“At the Council of Ministers Meeting, attention will be paid to the consideration of the report of the meeting of the Senior Trade Officials as well as consideration of work plans and budgets of the interim AfCFTA Secretariat and the permanent Secretariat.

“These meetings are of particular relevance to the country considering the fact that Ghana is the host of the AfCFTA Secretariat”. 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a Single Market (Duty-free, Quota-free) covering the entire African Continent with a total population of 1.2 billion and a combined GDP of almost USD 3 trillion.

“The AfCFTA is the single most significant development in Africa since the establishment of Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, ” the statement underlined.

“It is considered as the flagship project under the AU Agenda 2063. It is the world’s largest Free Trade Area, second only to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in terms of the number of member states”.

The AfCFTA seeks to increase intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade within the African continent. It is estimated that intra-African trade will increase by as much as $35 billion per annum or 52% by 2022;

The Free Trade Area also aims at addressing the challenge of small fragmented markets in Africa by creating a single continental market which will lead to economies of scale; add value to Africa’s abundant natural resources and promote economic diversification and industrialization.

It is also envisaged to develop regional value chains and facilitate cross border investments; enhance access to an expanded market for SMEs in Africa on preferential trade terms; attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into Africa with strong regional and local content; facilitate the integration of Africa economies into global markets and thereby significantly improve the Terms of Trade for African countries; among others.

“The AfCFTA is operational, with Ghana as the host country, at a time when Ghana is implementing a comprehensive industrial transformation plan to diversify the production base of the economy to take advantage of the enormous market access opportunities available under preferential terms for Ghanaian and other producers in Africa,” the statement.

“In addition to focusing on harnessing the benefits of the AfCFTA, Government has set up an institutional coordination and support framework, which includes an Inter-Ministerial Facilitation Committee, a National Steering Committee and Seven (7) Technical Working Groups to implement a Programme of Action to Boost Intra-African Trade, all to be supported by a National Coordination Office for AfCFTA.

“It is instructive to note that despite Ghana’s pioneering role in the struggle for independence in Africa and subsequent contributions to the integration of the African continent, Ghana has not had the honour and privilege of hosting any AU Organ.

“Although it has been long in coming, it has come at a time when Africa is rising and Ghana is rising. Full implementation of the Free Trade Area, in the knowledge and wisdom of the African Union and its leadership, is scheduled to commence on July 1, 2020 to, rightfully so, coincide with the day Ghana attained a Republican Status”.

Source: www.uneca.org


Over the course of two days, Pan-African Trade experts will meet to validate the methodology to produce the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Country Business Index at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa.

The aim of the index is to provide an assessment of the extent to which businesses across Africa find trading across borders in Africa challenging, and to identify the main barriers to trade they experience. The index will allow for a ranking of this data across countries and provide an evaluation of the developmental impact of the AfCFTA. Views will be collected through a survey administered through regional and local chambers of commerce and industry.

“The index is an instrument that provides business perceptions of the country-specific challenges in their own country, and how these country challenges impact on firms’ ability to trade across borders in Africa” says Adeyinka Adeyemi, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The AfCFTA entered into force on 30 May 2019 having been ratified by the required 22 countries. Currently, 54 countries have signed, and 29 countries have ratified the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world's largest free trade area, with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. The AfCFTA has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.

The AfCFTA Country Business Index is part of a comprehensive project aimed at deepening Africa's trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA. Financially supported by the European Union, ECA has been working with its partners including the African Union Commission (AUC), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a selection of independent trade experts to ensure effective AfCFTA implementation strategies.

Source: www.uneca.org

The Committee on Private Sector, Regional Integration, Trade, Infrastructure, Industry and Technology (CPRTIIT), comprising senior officials and experts from member states, which meets biennially opened today in Addis Ababa on the theme: Private Sector Development and the Digital Economy in support of Regional integration in Africa. According to the organizing team, the Committee, which has been in place since 1999 has been reconstituted by the Economic Commission for Africa under a broader mandate, that gives prominence to the private sector, to harness its full potential for job creation as well as its capacity to finance development and make regional integration functional.

Speaking at the opening, Stephen Karingi Director Regional Integration and Industrialisation Division at the ECA said, studies by ECA have shown that the African Continental Free Trade Area, - AfCFTA could increase intra-African trade by between 15 to 25 per cent, compared to a scenario with no AfCFTA in place. With this in mind, stated Karingi, “increase in trade in itself is not as interesting as the composition of the trade created and around two-thirds of the gain is expected to be derived from industrial goods, providing a good environment for diversification of the African economies.” 

He also said that the increase in trade expected to provide good quality jobs and improve livelihoods on the ground and the Continent will also benefit from strengthened regional supply chains.

While the economic gains are clear, Karingi opined that they will not be automatic. The AfCFTA provides the platform through which new industrialisation pathways can be realised, by harnessing the opportunities digitalisation offers. The Agreement, added Karingi, has to go beyond goods and services and a working dispute settlement “..it has to embrace the digital age in which it is coming into life.”

The meeting also learnt that  the African Union Commission and the ECA are finalising a Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, which will be presented at the AU Summit in February 2020 for consideration. The Digital Transformation Strategy will help unlock the potential of the digital economy.

Ambassador Mesganu Arga Moach, Ethiopia’s State Minister in the Ministry of Trade said his country is preparing a draft national law which outlies the governance framework for ecommerce. The law, said the Minister, will be ground breaking for businesses that are moving towards online trading and financial transactions. 

He also told the gathering that Ethiopia has launched an electronic world trade platform - the second in Africa after Rwanda - which will enable Ethiopia to provide smart logistics and services, conduct cross-border trades with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.  The platform will be pivotal in availing market opportunities and linkages for SMEs with business across the globe.

“Our policies are being designed to encourage adoption, but also to enhance innovative capabilities in creating home-grown technologies, products and services, said the Minister.

Pepin Guilaume Manjolo Buakila, Minister of International Cooperation, Regional Integration and Francophonie expressed his appreciation to the ECA for organizing the series of meetings to provided experts with an opportunity to examine the studies done by the ECA, particularly in areas aimed at maximising the implementation of the AfCFTA, even as the Continent seeks to address numerous challenges, including low levels of diversification and governance.

Source: www.uneca.org

Nigeria Determined to Fully Implement AfCFTA Terms and Commitments, Industry Minister

Lagos, Nigeria, December 5, 2019 (ECA) – Nigeria is determined to fully implement the terms of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and uphold its commitments on trade and regional integration, the country’s Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, said Monday.

In remarks to a two-day national AfCTA forum that opened Monday in Lagos, Mr. Adebayo said Nigeria, however, will not allow smuggling and other predatory trade practices to continue unchecked in the country as this undermines the nation’s development efforts and destroyed local industries, leading to job losses.

“We also will not allow rogue traders to manipulate the rules of origin and disguise goods from outside the continent as made in Africa so as to qualify for duty free passage,” he said, adding for a successful implementation of the AfCFTA, his government had constituted the National Action Committee to coordinate a wide range of actions at the domestic, regional and continental levels

From the studies done so far, the Minister said, Nigeria has established that the AfCFTA can facilitate economic growth and diversification through preferential access to Africa’s market for manufactured goods and services.

This can be done through upping the country’s production capacity, retooling and upscaling existing businesses and assisting sectors that will be negatively impacted to migrate to new areas; prioritizing the resolution of bottlenecks that hinder competitiveness in trade, including hard infrastructure such as power and logistics as well as policies and regulations; and enforcement of trade rules without compromising the country’s efforts on trade facilitation and ease of doing business.

“Whilst we have rightfully been wary of the risks posed by the AfCFTA to Nigeria, we ought now to look at it with significant optimism,” the Minister said, adding the Nigerian Export Promotion Council had mapped out goods and services where the country has strong potential to export to Africa.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed the AfCFTA agreement in July after what his government said were comprehensive consultations with the private sector and in-depth consideration of its potential impact on the Nigerian economy.

The forum, running under the theme Effective Implementation for Industrialisation and Inclusive Economic Development in Nigeria is also a platform to actively engage with and consult intra-African actors across a diverse range of different sectors to better understand how the agreement can shape more inclusive economic development in Nigeria.

The AfCFTA entered into force on 30 May 2019 and implementation starts in July 2020. The historic agreement provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world's largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc, ushering in a new era of development.

The forum was co-organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the European Union, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC). 

Source: www.tralac.org

Click here for the report.

Following the introduction, the structure of the report is as follows: section II focuses on trade integration; section III on productive integration; section IV on macroeconomic integration; section V on infrastructure integration; section VI on migration and the free movement of people; section VII on governance, peace and security; and, to close, section VIII offers a conclusion and recommendations


Profiled side events (9-10 December): Governing the interface between the AfCFTA and RECs’ Free Trade Areas: issues, opportunities and challenges; Review and validation of the methodological approach to produce the AfCFTA Country Business Index; Africa’s Services Trade Liberalization and Integration under the AfCFTA; Towards a common investment area in the AfCFTA: levelling the playing field for intra-African investment.




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The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 2009 by 35 founding national business chambers to influence government policy and create a better operating environment for business.

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