African Continental Free Trade Area
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the result of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among all 55 members of the African Union. If ratified, the agreement would result in the largest free-trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is a continent-wide free-trade agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) and initially signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022. The proposal will come into force after ratification by 22 of the signatory states.
The first negotiation forum was held in February 2016 and held eight meetings until the Summit in March 2018 in Kigali. From February 2017 on the technical working groups held four meetings, where technical issues were discussed and implemented in the draft. On 8-9 March 2018 the African Union Ministers of Trade approved the draft.
At the extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union on 21 March in Kigali the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area was signed, along with the Kigali Declaration and the Protocol of Free Movement. Other countries who signed the Kigali declaration, including South Africa and Namibia, are expected to sign the agreement during the AU summit in July.
Negotiations will continue in 2018 with Phase II, including policies of investment, competition and intellectual property rights. On the January 2020 AU Assembly negotiations are envisaged to be concluded.
Several institutions will be created when the AfCFTA comes into force. According to the results of Phase I negotiations the following institutions will be established to facilitate the implementation of the free trade area. As a result of Phase II negotiations more committees may be established via protocols.
The secretariat will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the agreement and shall be an autonomous body within the AU system. Though it will have independent legal personality, it shall work closely with the AU Commission and receive its budget from the AU. The Council of Ministers responsible for trade will decide on the location of the headquarter, structure, role and responsibilities.
Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government
Council of Ministers responsible for trade
Committee of Senior Trade Officials
The Committee of Senior Trade Officials implements the Council’s decisions. The Committee is responsible for the development of programs and action plans for the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement.
Dispute Settlement Body
Several Committees will be established through protocols to assist with the implementation of specific matters. It is already agreed to establish committees for trade in goods, trade in services, on rules of origin, trade remedies, non-tariff barriers, technical barriers to trade and on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
Most AU member states signed the initial agreement, including:
Benin, Botswana, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, and Zambia did not sign the initial agreement. President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari was particularly reluctant to join if it hurt Nigerian entrepreneurship and industry.
Human Rights Assessment
An interdisciplinary team carried out a human rights assessment of the agreement as the negotiations were underway. This assessment was mandated by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Friedrich Ebert Stifting. The full report of its findings were published in July 2017., and a Policy Brief which its main recommendations were shared with African countries' officials during the following negotiating sessions.
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- Report: the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in a human rights perspective
- Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Continental Free Trade Area - Nine Priority Recommendations from a Human Rights Perspective