The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has been pushed from its initial date of July 1 to January next year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
AfCFTA’s Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said that the market is not conducive for the launch considering more than 42 countries out of 55 countries in Africa’s continent are under lockdown and the containment measures are complicating intra-trade.
Speaking to private sector players during a webinar organized by Africa CEO’s forum, Mr Mene said the decision to push forward the launch was made after wide consultation.
“Suspension of the implementation of AfCFTA from July 1 was not my decision but that of African Union Heads of States. I advised the assembly on the reality, facts, science and data on the ground on the situation of Covid-19. The decision of the new date, which also depends on how quick the pandemic is contained, was widely consulted and involved the private sector,” said Mr Mene.
Mr Mene also said that postponing the launch was also as a result of the pending negotiations which were halted by the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 crisis was not expected and its impacts are inevitable; we lost March and April which were critical on AfCFTA implementation. During that period, we had intended to complete some pending technical elements, such as rules of origin — products made in Africa — for some sensitive sectors, the exchange of tariff concessions on goods trade and commitments on trade in services which are critical in the negotiations,” said Mr Mene.
He added that the commission would resume trade as soon as borders are open and that they are working with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention who are advising them on how they will resume when conditions are conducive.
The secretary-general said that African exports are expected to decline from 53 per cent to less than 30 per cent in 2020 due to travel restrictions abroad caused by COVID-19 containment measures.