One Year of the AfCFTA - What Has Worked and the Way Forward

Africa's free trade area started a year ago amid much fanfare. But its impact has been low amid the coronavirus pandemic and an economic downturn on the continent, write Martina Schwikowski and Abu-Bakarr Jalloh for Deutsche Welle.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) celebrates its first anniversary on January 1, 2022. With exception of Eritrea, all African countries are signatories to the agreement. Over time, ratifying counties pledge to eliminate import tariffs on 97% of goods traded between African states.

But AfCFTA wants to do more than just boost trade in goods -- its scope includes services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy, although these aspects are still under negotiation.

Since Africa officially started trading under AfCFTA in January 2021, the practical impacts of the agreement have been minimal, said Matthias Boddenberg, head of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Southern Africa.

Disruptions of global supply chains due to coronavirus restrictions in 2020 limited AfCFTA's potential, Boddenberg said. "Manufacturers in neighboring Botswana couldn't supply wiring harnesses for the auto industry in South Africa because borders were closed," he said, giving an example.

InFocus

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with 54 countries participating, is creating the largest free trade area in the world.

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