Delegates pose for a group photo after the opening session of the Executive Council of Ministers of African Union meeting in Kigali. Timothy Kisambira.

The African Union (AU) said on Saturday that a post-launch of the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement implementation plan is under preparation ahead of the AfCFTA’s operational phase, scheduled to start in July.

“A post-launch AfCFTA implementation plan is under preparation and will be submitted to the AU Ministers of Trade in the first week of June this year,” the 55-member pan-African bloc said in a statement.

If the AU Ministers of Trade “satisfied with the implementation plan, they will convey it to the Extra-Ordinary Summit for its consideration and adoption in July this year,” the statement said.

The AU extraordinary summit is scheduled to convene in Niamey, Niger.

AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga urged all members of the African Union to sign and ratify the agreement before July.

The AfCFTA has laid the foundation for what could be the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of participating countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion dollars, according to the AU.

“In launching the African Continental Free Trade Area and making it work, Africa is overcoming the historic fragmentation and isolation of her economies by opening up huge commercial opportunities as well as improving transport and communication linkages among our countries,” Muchanga said.

Noting that the AfCFTA creates “more than a free trade area,” Muchanga urged African countries to “conclude the works on specific commitments on trade in services as well as commence negotiations on protocols on investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights.”

The African free trade accord, once operational, will boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Enditem


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