African continental free trade area business forum gathers in Kigali, Rwanda. Xinhua
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is set to enter into force on May 30. The AfCFTA, which was signed by 44 African countries when it was launched in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in March 2018, aspires to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur industrialization and create more jobs.
The pact has been ratified by 22 members of the African Union (AU), which is the threshold needed for the deal to come into force. The agreement will progressively eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for African businesses to trade within the continent and cater to and benefit from the growing African market, said the AU.
The decision to form a continental free trade area in Africa was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while AfCFTA negotiations were officially launched by the AU in 2015. The first negotiation forum was held in February 2016 and seven more were held until the agreement was signed in March 2018.
Trade officials from the continent will meet again in the first week of June 2019 to finalize work on supporting instruments to facilitate the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA during Extra-Ordinary Heads of State and Government Summit, said the AU in a statement. If all the 55 AU members join it, the AfCFTA will become the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
After its implementation, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.