Year of the AfCFTA

Posted by on May 4, 2023 in Business | 0 comments

Year of the AfCFTA

The African Union has designated 2023 as the “Year of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)” and aims to accelerate implementation and expand the operational phase of the project. The AfCFTA is the world’s largest active free trade area in terms of members, population, and geographic size – 54 African states are signatories and 47 have ratified the AfCFTA Agreement which encompasses over 1.4bn people across the entire African continent. However, substantive trade under the AfCFTA has not really happened to date and there remain major challenges to overcome before the real benefits of greater economic integration, trade liberalization, and intra-African trade can be realised. In addition to finalising negotiations on sensitive issues such as Rules of Origin and tariff reduction schedules, participating states must address inadequate national and cross border transport infrastructure; limited access to digital technology; excessive, inconsistent, and informal business bureaucracy; a lack of institutional capacity to effectively implement and enforce the AfCFTA; and entrenched nationalistic interests and a strong sense of protectionism. The ebb and flow of political will or staying power evident across much of Africa is another barrier to effective implementation but progress will be made and the AfCFTA could eventually – albeit in the very long-term – become a game changer for Africa and help the continent move from visualized to realized economic potential.

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