South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has welcomed Parliament’s ratification of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).Davies on Wednesday said South Africa was expected to deposit the instrument of ratification during the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in February 2019. The accord will enter into force once 22 member states of the AU have deposited their instruments of ratification, according to the minister.
“The AfCFTA comprises 55 African countries, and once entered into force, will constitute the largest free trade area globally.
“As a flagship project of the African Union’s ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want,’ the AfCFTA aims to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of over one billion people with a combined GDP of approximately US$3.3 trillion,” Davies said.
The Ethiopia-based UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA will increase intra-Africa trade from the current 10%-16% to nearly 52% by the year 2022.
The AfCFTA was launched during an extra-ordinary summit of AU leaders on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. South Africa signed the agreement during the AU’s 31st ordinary session of the assembly on 1 July 2018 in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
To date, 49 countries have signed the Agreement, while Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, eSwatini, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Guinea Conakry have deposited their instruments of ratification.
The minister said the AfCFTA is anchored on the development integration approach, which places emphasis on market integration, infrastructure development, and industrial development in order to boost intra-Africa trade.
“In support of these objectives, the AfCFTA agreement covers both goods and services under Phase I and will include investment, intellectual property and competition under Phase II of the negotiations,” he said.
The agreement will create a single set of rules for trade and investment among all African countries and provides legal certainty for traders and investors through the harmonisation of trade regimes.
“It also facilitates intra-Africa investment and increases the continent’s prospects of stimulating industrialisation, employment, income generation and poverty reduction,” the minister said.