The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is arguably the most important trade-related issue currently taking place on the continent.1 It proposes a free trade area among all 55 African Union nations and would be the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the WTO. Initially requiring members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, it would allow free access to commodities, goods, and services (UNECA, 2018). The AfCFTA also includes a protocol on the free movement of people.
Despite the existence of regional trading blocs such as ECOWAS, COMESA and SADC, Africa is the least economically integrated region in the world, with intra-continental trade accounting for only 15% of all African trade (UNCTAD, 2019). Trade liberalisation on the continent has so far largely focused on African countries liberalising at various levels within their regional blocs, and then negotiating from within them against noncontinental actors such as the European Union and the United States. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AfCFTA was predicting an increase in intra-continental trade to by 33% once full tariff liberalisation has been implemented (Ibid).
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