The African Continental Free Trade Agreement has legally entered into force at midnight on May 30, but the signatory countries have until July to define the modalities of operation. Only then will we begin to see what its impact will be.
The AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry celebrated the news in these terms, through his Twitter account:
“A historic milestone!” The African Free Trade Agreement entered into force today, celebrating the triumph of bold, pragmatic and continent-wide economic integration, launching the Common Market on July 7, 2019 and start the journey of transformation to preserve inclusive prosperity.”
The agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services with the free movement of goods, people and investments. Experts say this will boost trade in Africa and strengthen the continent’s position in global trade.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa, for its part, believes that the agreement has the potential to increase intra-African trade by 53%. Currently, Africa trades much less with itself than with the rest of the world.
So far, only 24 out of 54 African countries have ratified the trade agreement with, among others, Nigeria, the largest African economy that has yet to sign. Burkina Faso became the last country to ratify on Wednesday.
The African Union says that if all countries join it, it will become the largest free trade area since the creation of the World Trade Organization.