The African Union (AU) Commission has said that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is set to enter into force on May 30.
The one-month timeframe to activate the continental free trade pact came as Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification to the AU Commission, the AU said in a statement late Wednesday.
“The two deposits meet the minimum threshold of ratifications required under Article 23 of the AfCFTA Agreement for it to enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the 22nd deposit, which is made by the Saharawi Republic,” the statement said.
“The AfCFTA Agreement will, in this regard, enter into force on 30th May, 2019,” it said.
“All that is now left is for the African Union and African Ministers of Trade to finalize work on supporting instruments to facilitate the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA during the Extra-Ordinary Summit of African heads of state and government on July 7, 2019,” the AU statement said.
According to the 55-member pan-African bloc, the AfCFTA’s supporting instruments include the rules of origin, schedules of tariff concessions on trade in goods, online non-tariff barriers monitoring and elimination mechanism, digital payments and settlement platform, and an African Trade Observatory Portal.
The AU said recently deposits of ratifications are also expected from Zimbabwe and Gambia following the ratification of the AfCFTA by the two AU member countries’ parliaments.
The African ministers of trade are “scheduled to meet in Kampala, capital of Uganda, in the first week of June to review work on these supporting instruments ahead of the Extra-Ordinary Summit on the AfCFTA,” the AU said.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the continental free trade agreement is a “process that will create a large market that is critical to increasing trade and investments on the continent.”
The AfCFTA, which was signed by 44 African countries when it was launched in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in March 2018, aspires to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur industrialization and create more jobs.
The continental free trade pact paves the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union, according to the AU.
The AfCFTA is regarded as the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
Once operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.