AfCFTA starts operational phase after meeting in Niger

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was launched last Sunday, July 7, 2019 in the Nigerian capital of Niamey in the presence of members of the African Union. To date, 27 countries have ratified the agreement, and 52 have signed.

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou says the move is important because it promotes the integration of the continent and, according to him, “breaks the borders inherited from colonial Africa.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi emphasized the need to establish links with the private sector and the business and investment communities, while calling for the involvement of young people who, he said, “will continue to march towards development” .

Next Steps: ECA presents document

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) presented a report outlining the solutions created with the (AfCFTA). Entitled Next Steps for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the document illustrates the current scenario and shows the steps to be taken in the future.

The report argues that the success of AfCFTA will be measured in large part by its ability to truly change lives, reduce poverty and contribute to economic development in Africa. The text also recommends that AfCTA ratification be followed by effective implementation and that implementation be more effective if AfCFTA national committees are established by country trade ministries.

“In order for us to do the work of the AfCFTA, we need to make competition, industrial policies and property rights work well,” says ECOWAS Executive Secretary Vera Songwe during the launch of material – which was attended by the President of Niger, the President of the African Union Commission, heads of UN agencies and senior businessmen from all over the continent.

Fast establishment

The AfCFTA was adopted on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. And it became valid as of May 30, 2019, thirty days after being ratified. “The rapid establishment of the agreement is a source of pride for all of us,” said African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Five instruments of operation will be used to direct the agreement: Rules of Origin; the online trading forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payment system and the African Trade Observatory. Each of them was launched by different heads of state and government including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, current African Union President Moussa Faki Makamat and President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou.

Ghana was confirmed by the Heads of State and Government as the seat of the AfCFTA secretariat, being chosen from six other countries that have shown interest.

Other countries are yet to ratify the agreement soon. Cape Verde’s foreign affairs minister, Luís Filipe, has revealed that his country should sign the agreement in the coming weeks. “Cape Verde sees the free trade zone as a very important opportunity for our country and for our subregion,” he says.

The free trade agreement aims to establish a framework for the liberalization of freight services and aims to eliminate customs tariffs on 90% of products. The organization will be one of the largest areas of trade since the creation of the World Trade Organization.

“The rapid establishment of the agreement is a source of pride for us all”

Closing Ceremony of the African Union Meeting