Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area takes effect

Gambia’s National Assembly has ratified the agreement that seeks to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Twenty-two signatures were the minimum threshold required to approve the deal among the 55 member states of the African Union.

With Gambia’s ratification, the continent’s free trade agreement has drawn enough signatures to go into operation.

The AfCFTA Agreement will enter into force thirty days after the required number of ratifications have been deposited with the AU.

The AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, led celebrations of the historic achievement, posting on his office Twitter account that ‘the AfCFTA market is ready for launch of its operational phase in July this year.’

Once in place, the trade agreement will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion—making it the world’s largest free-trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the deal could also enhance intra-African trade by 52.3% annually.

Last year, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is leading the AU’s drive to bring the project to fruition after almost three decades of debate, said “These 84,000 km of borders between our 55 countries are 84,000 km of obstacles to trade between us.”

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