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Partial and Full Lockdowns Halt Africa’s Free Trade Launch

A historic deal to smash down tariff barriers within Africa is being slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic and a thicket of negotiating problems. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) was formally launched just over a year ago in a blaze of optimism. The accord — styled as the biggest free-trade accord in the world in terms of population — gathers 54 out of 55 African countries, with Eritrea the only holdout. It aims to phase out all tariffs on commerce on the continent of 1.2-billion people, a goal that backers say could give the trade a mega-jolt as only 15% of trade by African nations is with continental neighbors compared to 70% with Europe. A new date for January 2021 has been proposed by ambassadors at the Africa Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. The recommendation has yet to be adopted by heads of state.