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African Continental Free Trade Area enters Operational Phase

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019. This comes after the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was adopted on 21 March 2019 and thirty days elapsed after 22 member states (the minimum required for the AfCFTA to enter into force) deposited their ratification instruments (ratifying the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA has as its main aim to create a single continental market for good and services as well as free movement of business persons and investments. After that has been achieved the AfCFTA will develop towards a customs union. 
However, the entry into force of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA does not mean that African goods and services may now be traded freely. On 7 July 2019 the African Union launched the operational phase of the AfCFTA. The African Union notes that with the launch of the operational phase, traders across Africa will be able to make use of preferential trading arrangements offered by the AfCFTA, with the understanding that the trade transactions are among the Member States that have deposited the instruments of ratification and those that conform to the provisions on rules of origin governing trade in the AfCFTA. Unfortunately, agreement is still outstanding on several key areas, such as rules of origin and the protocols on goods and services. As such traders are not yet able to make use of the free trade area. It is expected that the free trade area will be operational from 1 July 2020 however that does represent an ambitious timeline.    
Rian Geldenhuys
© Trade Law Chambers 2019
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