Africa's role in the world economy derives from its economic importance to the rest of the world in international trade and as a destination for international investment. Africa has recently become home to the largest free trade area in the world, both by area and by the number of countries.
As economies have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds economic promise for the continent. The AfCFTA comprises 55 countries with a population of 1.3 billion and combined GDP of about $3.4 trillion. Business leaders and observers regard economic and regional integration as essential for accelerating Africa's manufacturing, e-commerce, and digitization to reduce an over-reliance on imports, especially from China.
However, there is still much more to do as major components of the agreement still must be negotiated, between many countries and regional economic communities. Moreover, according to the IMF, removing non-tariff barriers could be up to four times more effective in boosting trade than tariff reductions.