Photograph — Forbes

The anticipated African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) might commence January 1, 2021, due to the ripple effects of COVID-19 on the initial date set for July 1st, 2020.

This was disclosed last Thursday by AfCFTA Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene during a webinar organized by the Africa CEO Forum. He also emphasized that the new date would be subject to the spread of the virus across the continent.

Mene indicated that this development can be attributed to the lockdown measures adopted by most African states, which has made traveling almost impossible at the moment.

“It is not credible for us to say that we are trading from July 1 when we know that trucks at borders are lined up 40 to 50 kilometers,” he said.

Mena hopes that African Union member countries are able to negotiate trade tariffs and other protocols under the AfCFTA within the next six months.

In a previous statement in May 2020, the African Development Bank Group said,”How we respond to this pandemic will determine, how quickly we return to the laid down plans.’’

With the announcement of this new date, it is also believed that investors will plan on a more feasible level to achieve business goals.

Furthermore, considering the fact that coronavirus is easily contactable, the postponement of the initial date might be in favor of public health, as the movement of people across different borders might trigger the wild spread of the virus.

According to a forecast by the World Health Organization (WHO), there will be a steady rise in the cases of COVID-19 until a vaccine is found.

Already the continent has about 216,775 coronavirus cases; 5,852 related deaths; 98,686 recoveries patients.

Upon implementation, the continental free-trade zone would be the largest new economic integration, since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994. Furthermore, the trade deal has the potential to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic partnership.

However, the change of date for full operations might mean that the project will experience a significant setback in boosting intra-African trade by 52 percent in 2022 (according to a forecast by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa).

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