Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director of the Trade Law Centre, a South African-based think tank, told Africa Renewal that while the free trade area could significantly improve competitiveness and promote intra-African trade, it also requires „strong technical leadership and capacity to help member states in future negotiations…. We are also witnessing strong protective currents in the global economy. Removing import duties could potentially boost intra-African trade by more than 50%, while a reduction in non-tariff barriers will double the volume of trade, notes the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). To ensure effective implementation, the AU will establish an AfCFTA secretariat, consisting of an African Economic Council, a trade observatory and a dispute resolution body. The free trade area can only enter into force if all protocols from at least 22 countries are finalized and ratified. The AfCFTA, signed by 54 African Union member states, is a trade agreement that provides for the creation of a single market by 2028 and the creation of an economic union and a free movement area. This agreement will create the world`s largest free trade area and contribute to the phasing in or elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment. This open market will certainly create many new business opportunities and strengthen trade relations between investors and economic players in the many countries concerned. AfCFTA came into force on 30 May 2019 and its trade is scheduled to begin on 1 January 2021. Click here for the official AfCFTA text.
She said ratification of the agreement would allow the country to access a wider market and harmonize trade instruments in the continent`s regional economic communities. The graph below shows the structure of the agreement for the creation of the AfCFTA. At the summit, Benin and Nigeria signed the agreement, so Eritrea is the only African state not to be part of the agreement; Since then, Eritrea has applied to join the agreement. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea also tabled their ratifications at the summit. At the time of launch, there were 27 states that had ratified the agreement.     Given that the Nigerian authorities continued to consult with local business groups in the second half of 2018, one of the main concerns was whether the agreement adequately prevented anti-competitive practices such as dumping.  At the close of 2018, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the delay was „regrettable“ and stressed the lack of trade in goods between African countries, the difficulties in getting from one African country to another, and the colonial legacy of these restrictions on Africa`s growth.  The government steering committee responsible for the consultation process is expected to release its report on the agreement in January 2019.
 The overall objectives of the agreement are: The free trade area will not dissolve the „good work“ of Africa`s regional economic communities, including facilitating regional liberalization and trade integration in Africa, she said.