Long-awaited Africa-wide free trade zone opens on January 1st

Source: Peter Fabricius, Business Maverick, 8 December 2020, photo credit: General Electric

Many of Africa’s most important economies  – including South Africa – will start duty-free trading of goods among themselves on January 1 when the eagerly awaited Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)  goes into operation. 

South Africa’s Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel believes the agreement will be an important incentive for foreign investors to locate their manufacturing plants in Africa because it will provide them with a much larger market – of up to 1.4 billion people – than those of any of Africa’s 54 individual states.

He told Daily Maverick he expected that apart from South Africa, most of Africa’s other large countries would be among the first economies which opened their markets to each other on that historic day.

The preparations for “commercially meaningful” free trading to start on January 1 under the AfCFTA were finalised at a virtual African Union (AU) summit held on Saturday and chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, this year’s AU chairperson. He told the summit the AfCFTA would boost intra-African trade, promote industrialisation and competitiveness and contribute to job creation, and it would unleash regional value chains that would facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy. The AfCFTA will also improve the prospects of Africa as an attractive investment destination.

It would also help advance the empowerment and freedom of Africa’s women, by improving their access to trade opportunities. He urged other leaders to give special and adequate support to female-owned businesses.
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