African countries will have to wait a while longer for the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement after news emerged that only 7 of the 44 countries that signed the AfCFTA agreement in March have had it ratified by their respective parliaments.
49 out of the 55 countries in the AU signed the trade agreement that would allow the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital on the continent on the 21st of March in Kigali this year. However, the parliaments of 22 of these countries are expected to ratify the agreement within 120 days of the signing of the pact, with the AfCFTA then coming into effect 30 days after its ratification by these parliaments. Presently, only 7 parliaments have ratified the agreement in their respective countries as at the end of August, further causing a setback to the launching of the trade agreement. The agreement is expected to commence in 2019, but it is looking increasingly unlikely to commence then.
Some of the seven countries that have ratified the agreement include Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda – regional economic powers on the continent. The African Union set a target of 30 countries ratifying the agreement by December, but it unlikely that the target will be met.
Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, is yet to sign the agreement, and it was hoped after meetings last month between South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa, and his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari that the country would join the agreement. However, Nigeria has yet to sign the agreement, and there are fears it might be one of the last countries to join the pact.
This latest setback would also be a blow to the plans of Rwanda’s president, and also current African Union chair Paul Kagame. Drafting the AfCFTA pact has been a project of his, having been appointed by African leaders to draft the terms of the agreement, with the aim of promoting intra-African trade on the continent. His tenure as African Union Chair expires at the next African Union summit next year.
The AfCFTA will become the largest trade bloc in the world after its commencement and will have more than 1.2 billion people and a GDP of $2.5 trillion. It will expectedly eliminate tariffs in intra-African trade, improve trade across borders, encourage more indigenous companies, and leverage on the existing sub-regional trade blocs.