Africa’s Trail to Continental Free Trade Area Launched

West Africa-Trade
West Africa-Trade

The African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is scheduled to be held from March 17 to 21 in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda.

Leaders of AU member states are expected to sign the agreement to launch the AfCFTA at the summit, according to the AU.

After the agreement is signed, AU member states will need to ratify the establishment before the AfCFTA can enter into force, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Munyeshyaka said Wednesday.

The AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organization, according to the AU. It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, according to the pan-African bloc.

The following is a brief introduction to the process towards the launch of the AfCFTA:

The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU (AU heads of state and government summit) 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 25th AU heads of state and government summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June 2015 launched the negotiations for the establishment of the AfCFTA.

Eight rounds of negotiations under the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) have been made by AU member states since the first CFTA-NF meeting in 2016.

The last round of CFTA-NF meeting was held last November in Nigeria to consider the draft of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA and three protocols, namely Protocol on Trade in Services, the Protocol on Trade in Goods and the Protocol on Dispute Settlement Mechanism.

The fourth Meeting of African Ministers of Trade held in December 2017 in Niamey, Niger, concluded the first phase of the negotiations on the AfCFTA.

Trade ministers at the meeting endorsed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, together with the Protocol on Trade in Services. They also agreed on the creation of an autonomous AfCFTA Secretariat.

African trade ministers approved the draft of the AfCFTA agreement earlier this month, ahead of the AfCFTA extraordinary summit. Enditem

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