African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aspires to establish the world’s largest free trade area with the potential to unite 1.3 billion people, creating a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development, according.
The free trade pact is also expected to create a continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and capital, and pave the way for creating a customs union. AfCFTA agreement came into force in May 2019 after ratification from 27 countries. Of the 55 African countries, 54 have signed the agreement, with only Eritrea holding out.
A recent meeting of director-generals of Customs, revenue authority officials and trade experts from member states focused on how to bring on board all signatories and push for ratification by all, while another gathering of AU heads of state is scheduled to endorse the rollout plan for the AfCFTA agreement in January 2020.
However, Eritrea remains indifferent to the idea of joining AfCTA. Although AU officials are working on persuading Eritrea to sign the agreement chances of realizing a breakthrough remain low.
“Eritrea does not produce much, which could explain why it is not bothered about the AfCFTA. However, despite economic and financial sanctions imposed on some African countries, member states are still able to trade fairly well with each other. I visited Eritrea the other day and I noticed quite significant volumes of imports,” said a trade expert
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has urged African countries to intensify efforts towards building a single and unified continental market. With 90 percent of outstanding issues resolved, there is hope that faster clearing of consumer goods. With the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers and harmonization of standards as envisaged by the AfCFTA intra-regional trade and investment will boom.