27 March 2018
African Leaders Sign Free Trade Agreement
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

During the 10th Extraordinary Session of the AU Summit, African leaders from 44 countries signed the Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The agreement has the potential to increase intra-African trade by more than 50% and to support Africa's progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa's Agenda 2063.

UNECA launched a tool to monitor implementation of the agreement, known as the AfCFTA Country Business Index.

22 March 2018: African leaders signed the Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The agreement creates one of the world’s largest trading blocks, and aims to dramatically increase intra-African trade by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers on goods and services.

African leaders from 44 countries signed the AfCFTA during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit. Leaders had agreed to hold the Extraordinary Session at the 30th Ordinary Session of the AU. At the AfCFTA signing ceremony, AU Chairperson Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said the AfCFTA represents the “culmination of a vision set forth nearly 40 years ago” in the Lagos Plan of Action, in which African leaders called for a continent-wide market.

According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the agreement has the potential to increase intra-African trade by 52.3%. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has estimated that eliminating intra-African tariffs could generate US$3.6 billion in welfare gains for Africa through cheaper goods and an increase in production.

The agreement is anticipated to benefit Africa’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up 80% of the region’s business, as well as women, who account for 70% of informal cross-border traders, and youth through employment opportunities. Apart from these advances towards the 2030 Agenda’s vision of leaving no one behind, the AfCFTA is an important step towards “achieving the SDGs and delivering on the African agenda of peace and prosperity,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. He said the entire UN system will support Africa as it moves towards the entry into force of the Free Trade Area, including through the Joint AU-UN Agreement for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.

UNECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe welcomed the agreement as “a giant strike forward in continental integration, in the pan-African vision and in the development of our continent.” Songwe also underscored the importance of maintaining momentum on the agreement through effective implementation. To track implementation, the UNECA launched the AfCFTA Country Business Index, a tool that aims to monitor progress on the AfCFTA through surveys of business opinions on the agreement’s impact on trade. The AfCFTA Country Business Index tool will rank countries in four areas: AfCFTA implementation; ease of trade; trade for development, the SDGs and Agenda 2063; and AfCFTA impact.

AfCFTA will enter into force once the required number of countries – 22 out of the AU’s 55 member States – have ratified the agreement. As for signatories, to date, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Saharawi Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, and Zimbabwe have signed the AfCFTA. The Saharawi Republic is not recognized by the UN but is a member of the AU. [AU Summit Website] [UN News Story] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNCTAD Press Release] [UNECA Press Release] [UNECA Press Release on AfCFTA Tool] [AU Press Release] [List of Signatories] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the 30th AU Summit]

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