African continental free trade agreement: Red tape delays start of trading under new pact

Source: Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick, 14 January 2021, photo credit: SST Attorneys

South Africa is waiting for Botswana to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and for Egypt to make tariff offers before it can start trading under the new agreement.

Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the ambitious continent-wide free trade agreement which has been signed by 54 of Africa’s 55 states officially began on January 1. But Pretoria says no goods have yet been exported or imported under its zero or reduced import tariffs.

That is because all the necessary red tape has not yet been cleared away by all member states.

There has been some confusion about this, with official indications that South Africa, Egypt and Ghana had begun trading. But it turns out that while these countries have put in place the necessary customs procedures to start trading, they have not cleared other bureaucratic obstacles to do so. 

Ambassador Xavier Carim, deputy director-general for international trade negotiations in South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, confirmed to Daily Maverick that South Africa and Egypt had not yet begun trading under the AfCFTA.

He said this was because Botswana had not yet ratified the AfCFTA and because Egypt was still finalising its revised tariff reduction offers. South Africa and Botswana, plus Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho are members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which will trade in the AfCFTA as a single bloc.
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