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Final Touches to Implement Africa’s Free Trade

The coronavirus outbreak is unlikely to scupper a July 1 target for the first commerce under the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), even if meetings to iron out details are being cancelled, said the zone’s most senior official. Cross-border travel bans by some governments, as well as restrictions imposed by companies on their employees, have led to conferences being cancelled. If it wasn’t for the virus and the ensuing travel restrictions, discussions around trade concessions and rules of origin may have been further along and could have been concluded by May. That’s when SA is scheduled to host an extraordinary African Union (AU) summit to finalise the modalities of the agreement. Legally, the agreement is already in force, but to make the July 1 deadline for the start of trade in goods and services under the new tariff rules, these details need to be rubber-stamped before the May summit as part of phase one of the process.