Niamey (Niger) — Signed by 52 African countries, the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), judging by the number of participating countries, is the most important trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation. As of April 1, 2019, just one year and ten days after its signature, the ratification threshold of 22 countries required for the entry into force of the Agreement had been reached. The pace of this ratification is unprecedented in the history of the African Union.
Its first operational phase was signed last July in Niamey during the African Union Summit.
This Agreement, which will allow the establishment of an internal market of 1.2 billion consumers, with a combined GDP of 3,000 billion dollars for goods and services produced on the continent, is strongly supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) which works in close collaboration with the African Union and other actors to support this grand process and to popularise it among the people and the private sector.
"With the signing of the Kigali Declaration for the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa has taken a giant step towards continental integration, the Pan-African Vision and the development of our continent," said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA.
Speaking on the occasion of the official signing of the AfCFTA in Kigali, Ms. Songwe noted that this historic moment demonstrated the determination of African leaders to bring together the diversity of the continent and make this flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, a reality.
In West Africa, the ECA, together with the African Union Commission (AUC), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the financial support of the European Union (EU), and in collaboration with national Governments, organised AfCFTA national awareness and advocacy forums and National Strategy validation workshops in Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, The Gambia and Senegal.
The main purpose of these strategies, developed after wide consultations, is to define a scheme for applying the measures contained in the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA in order to derive maximum benefit from it for companies and countries. National strategies are also based on the idea that their application must fit harmoniously into the national and regional legal and institutional frameworks.
The AfCFTA Strategies for Sierra Leone and Niger are being reviewed with a view to taking into account the recommendations of stakeholders collected during various technical workshops.
Regarding the AfCFTA National Strategy for Burkina Faso, the process began in February 2020. A preliminary roadmap has been validated with the country and work is underway to draft the terms of reference for the process.
In addition to these AfCFTA National Strategies, the ECA, the European Union, the Association of Manufacturers of Nigeria (AMN) and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), in collaboration with the AUC, organised a National Forum in Nigeria on this historic agreement.
This Forum brought together the Nigerian private sector to give them the opportunity to learn how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by AfCFTA. It also served as a platform to actively engage and consult with intra-African actors from diverse range of sectors to better understand how the Agreement can shape more inclusive economic development in Nigeria.
In Senegal also, a Regional Forum for West and Central Africa was organised by the ECA, the Government of Senegal, the African Union Commission and the European Union, on the theme "The AfCFTA on the move: Deepening African integration for a prosperous continent". This forum was a continuation of the capacity building actions of African states initiated by the ECA which aim to support governments, at their request, in the formulation of national strategies to implement the AfCFTA.
The ECA, through its Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, remains available to respond to Member States' new requests for assistance in the development of national AfCFTA strategies.
For more information, please contact: Tahirou Gouro, Communications Officer, ECA-SRO/WA,
Sub-Regional Office for West Africa
428 Avenue du Fleuve Niger