South Africa’s Parliament approves agreement to establish AfCFTA

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies has welcomed Parliament’s ratification of the agreement that establishes the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA was launched during an extraordinary summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and government, in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21. South Africa signed the agreement during the thirty-first ordinary session of the assembly of the AU, in Mauritania, on July 1.

So far, 49 countries have signed the agreement and Kenya, Ghana, eSwatini, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Guinea Conakry have deposited their instruments of ratification.

South Africa is expected to deposit its instrument of ratification during the thirty-second ordinary session of the assembly of the AU in February 2019.

The AfCFTA will enter into force once 22 member States have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The AfCFTA includes 55 African countries and, once entered into force, will constitute the largest free trade area globally.

As a flagship project of the AU’s ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’, the AfCFTA aims to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of more than one-billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of about $3.3-trillion.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade from the current 10% to 16% to about 52% by 2022.

Davies commented the AfCFTA is anchored on the development integration approach, which places emphasis on market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development, to boost intra-Africa trade and support the continental development imperatives of sustainable economic growth.

He explained that the AfCFTA covers both goods and services under Phase 1 and will include investment, intellectual property and competition under Phase 2 of the negotiations.

The AfCFTA will create a single set of rules for trade and investment among all African countries [involved] and provides legal certainty for traders and investors through the harmonisation of trade regimes.