AfCFTA 2020: The real deal?

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Trading under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) framework is slated to start in July 2020, even though regional developments in 2019 suggests that many African countries are unprepared to implement the commitments of the deal. The re-emergence of xenophobic attacks in South Africa (Services), indefinite closure of Kenyan border with neighboring Somalia (with cross-border trade banned in the process) and the closure of all land borders by the Nigerian government (Goods), just three months after celebrating its signing of the AfCFTA, buttress this position.

Notably, the overall success of the AfCFTA is in doubt amid a perceived push back by states to embrace the rules of economic integration. Thus, without a willingness by countries to take commitments made under the AfCFTA seriously and match their words with concrete deeds, AfCFTA risks not being the game-changer it could be.

Beyond the above, impediments to trade between and among African countries such as transport and other key Infrastructure, currency and language barriers, are critical issues that may slow down the pace of the potential gain from the Agreement. In all, if the AfCFTA is to succeed, African states – especially South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt – must embrace more liberal transnational trade policies. This will require sustained efforts from governments, the private sector, and civil society, to digest and disseminate information about the potential of the AfCFTA to generate jobs, improve infrastructure and boost economic growth.

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