The AfCFTA Continues to Gather Momentum
Tralac held a 2 day conference on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) 21-22 September, which stressed that the negotiations were progressing satisfactorily despite COVID. The conference stressed that the AfCFTA will develop in 2 separate ways – first, as a pan-African voluntary movement aimed at reducing customs tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and second, through increased efforts by the regional economic communities (RECs) to reduce red tape and encourage cross-border trade. Despite the COVID delays, the AU expects the AfCFTA to begin operating from the start of 2021, with a new set of negotiations starting in January specifically on ecommerce. The EFA has launched a committee to respond to these negotiations, which held its first meeting on 24 September.
The pandemic is expected to cost Africa up to $79 billion in lost economic output in 2020 with millions of job losses. However, World Bank researchers estimated the AfCFTA would lift 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty and 68 million from moderate poverty by 2035. Once in force, the AfCFTA will bring together 1.3 billion people across 54 countries (Eritrea is the only AU country which has so far refused to join) with combined gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion. Full implementation is expected to increase real income in Africa by 7%, or nearly $450 billion, mainly by reducing the cost of trade through the elimination of customs tariffs and red tape.
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