Addis Ababa 5 December 2020, (ECA) - Nigeria deposited its instrument of ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement on 5 December, becoming the 34th member state to formally ratify the treaty.
The deposit came an hour before the opening of a summit of African heads of state where they proclaimed the Johannesburg Declaration formally fixing trading to start on 1 January 2021 as earlier scheduled.
The African Union Commission's Trade and Industry Commissioner, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, received the instrument from a Nigerian delegation at the Commission's headquarters in Adddis Ababa.
With the Nigerian move, "we can confidently say that Africa is on track to deliver a commercially viable continental market on 1st January, 2021" he later tweeted.
There had been much interest in Nigeria's decision regarding its AfCFTA status because of its position as Africa's largest economy and the continent's most populous country with more than 200 million people.
Commissioner Muchanga said he expected the remaining members to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Only 20 member states are left to comply. They are Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Libya. The others are Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
The AfCFTA agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries -- the minimum number required under the treaty -- out of the 54 that agreed to be members of the bloc. Eritrea is the only country which has yet to make any commitment to the continental body.
Trading was earlier scheduled to start on 1 July this year but it was postponed for six months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world's largest free trade area with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development. It has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.
The ECA through its African Trade Policy Centre has been working with the AU to deepen Africa's trade integration through the effective implementation of the agreement by supporting the AfCFTA ratification process through policy advocacy.
The ECA is also assisting the member-states to develop national strategies for the implementation of the AfCFTA in partnership with the AUC, International Trade Centre (ITC), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a selection of independent trade experts with the financial support of the European Union (EU).