bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

AfCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a trade agreement that has been in force since July 2019, between 27 states of the African Union (AU). It aims to create a vast free trade area of over 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of over US $ 2 trillion.

The idea of creating an Africa-wide free trade area emerged at the 2012 AU summit in Addis Ababa. Negotiations began in 2015 and the deal was signed by 44 of the 55 AU member states in March 2018, during the AU summit in Kigali. At first, large economies such as South Africa and Nigeria refused to endorse the agreement. However, South Africa signed in July 2018 while Nigeria joined at the 11th hour in July 2019, when the deal entered its operational phase. Eritrea is the only AU state that has refused to sign.

The AfCFTA aims to liberalize 97% of products, 90% of non-sensitive products followed by 7% of sensitive products. Phase 1 of the negotiation process has focused on trade in goods and services. Phase 2 includes competition policy, intellectual property and investment and is aimed to be completed by 2020.

Even though the framework of the agreement has been in force, key substantive issues are still to be completed, including some rules of origin, tariff concessions and specific services sector commitments.

While the proponents of the deal have claimed the AfCFTA will foster development in Africa and help African businesses, the deal has also attracted criticism and opposition.

The AfCFTA has been depicted by some as Afro-liberalism disguised in pan-Africanism, which relies on the same free-market capitalism dogma that only benefits transnational capital, and supported by major international institutions and agencies such as the EU, UNCTAD, the WTO and the World Bank.

So far, the strongest opposition to the AfCFTA in Africa has occurred in Nigeria. Business groups, manufacturers, traders, farmers, small and medium enterprises have expressed concerns that Africa could become a dumping ground of cheap products coming from abroad, which could wreak havoc on the ongoing industrialization process.

Senegalese economist Ndongo Samba Sylla called it a “premature initiative” that would benefit major foreign businesses, as well as African heavy weights.. He argues that working on industrialization, development of pan-African infrastructures in the road, maritime, rail, air and IT sectors should come first.

Some foreign powers have already seen opportunities arising from the AfCFTA. China is planning to capitalize on it to connect African and Chinese markets to promote the free movement of goods, persons, capital and technologies. India is close to clinching a trade deal with Mauritius, which would provide a foothold into Africa. Turkish investors also see possibilities for development within the whole continent, while the EU might consider a mega trade deal. The African Union would be in favour of an Africa-US trade deal when the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) expires in 2025.

The text of the AfCFTA is available here: https://www.bilaterals.org/?afcfta-consolidated-text-march

Last update: September 2019


Eritrea, Nigeria, G-Bissau yet to commit to Africa free trade deal
According to the African Union Commission chairperson, Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau have made no commitment to the AU’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed in Kigali in March 2018.
African free trade agreement splits private sector groups
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria urges the government not to bow to pressure into signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement without addressing the concerns raised by stakeholders.
Africa free trade not for Nigeria now
Because Nigeria does not quite have the infrastructure and capacity to efficiently manufacture most of its consumer needs, AfCFTA may stunt Nigeria’s quest to migrate from perpetually exporting primary goods and importing manufactured products, for which labour suffers the most assault.
Buhari gives condition to sign Africa free trade agreement
President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will only be signatory to the Continental Free Trade Agreement if the nation’s national interests as well as regional and international obligations are balanced.
Nigeria’s President Buhari says will soon sign up to African free-trade agreement
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said the country will sign up soon to a $3 trillion African free-trade agreement.
Consultative workshop on market access concessions on trade in goods for CEN-SAD, ECCAS, ECOWAS and UMA Member States
The objective of the consultative workshop is a regional-wide consultation to finalize the outstanding issues including criteria for designation of sensitive products, percentages, etc.
Namibia finally pens Africa free trade deal
Namibia has finally signed the trillion-dollar African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which requires members to remove tariffs from 90 percent of goods to allow free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent.
49 AU members have signed free trade pact: AU chairperson
Forty-nine members of the African Union have signed the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA) agreement, said AU chairperson Paul Kagame .
SA to sign African free trade agreement - Davies
South Africa will sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies confirmed.
MAN kicks against Nigeria’s ratification of African free trade agreement
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said the issues raised by major stakeholders, including those expressed by manufacturers, still remained unattended to.