What Is The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement
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The 12th African Union extraordinary meeting on AfCFTA was convened to bring the new agreement into its operational phase, which was held in Niamey on 7 July 2019.   In the preamble to the AfCFTA agreement, eight SESTs are referred to as AfCFTA `constituent elements` (see figure 3). Any trade liberalization within the framework of afCFTA (beyond that of the REC) will first take place between African countries and regions that do not yet have free trade agreements, for example between the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The appendix to the AfCFTA report for the African Union summit of 10-11 February 2019 outlines the next steps; Indeed, the number of intra-African economic communities will not increase until AfCFTA is implemented. The African Continental Free Trade Area only came into force when 22 of the signatory countries ratified the agreement, which took place in April 2019, when The Gambia was the 22nd country to ratify it.  In August 2020, there are 54 signatories, of which at least 30 have ratified and 28 have tabled their ratification instruments.    The three countries that have ratified their ratifications but have not yet tabled are Cameroon, Angola and Somalia, although Morocco is also ratified.   With the negotiation and ratification of the AfCFTA agreement, the AU Commission has begun a new dynamic in the process of regional integration. However, the shift from the discussions – and even the outcome of the negotiations – to concrete economic benefits is important.
Criticism of the African Union`s pressure for rapid results has also been heard by government circles, for example in southern Africa. They also draw attention to a difficulty: a timetable may have been agreed, but there is always a risk of implementation delay. It is therefore likely that integration in regions that have already committed to a more open trade policy will progress (more) dynamically. In this context, the talks in southern Africa between the South African Customs Union (SACU) and the ABC are expected to proceed well, while the process of opening up between countries that take a more protectionist approach, such as Nigeria or Zimbabwe, remains short of the way. The overall objectives of the agreement are: Eritrea has not signed due to tensions with Ethiopia, but after the 2018 Eritrea-Ethiopia summit, the AU Trade and Industry Commissioner now expects Eritrea to sign the agreement.  With the AfCFTA Treaty, African states are striving to reach a comprehensive and modern agreement covering trade in goods and services, but also addressing new themes.