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Countdown to the African Continental Free-Trade Area Agreement

The real effect of commerce under a pan-African deal to establish the world’s largest free-trade area will probably be seen in only three years, according an architect of the pact. That’s because a roadmap, laws and support mechanisms to facilitate continent-wide trade, has to be finalised, he said. Lopes led the unit that provided technical support to the AU, which is spearheading efforts to establish the deal. Africa lags behind other regions in terms of internal trade, with intra-continental commerce accounting for only 15% of the total, compared with 58% in Asia and more than 70% in Europe. The African Export-Import Bank estimates intra-African trade could increase by 52% within a year of the AfCFTA’s implementation and more than double during the first decade. An agreement on tariffs could take time because countries are expected to offer concessions on an individual basis and the secretariat responsible for facilitating the agreement is not in place yet.