On 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, 44 AU member States signed the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). An additional eight member states have signed the agreement since then, while the twenty-two have ratified it so far. The AfCFTA will enter into force after 22 African countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Africa Union Commission. Once in force, the AfCFTA is expected to generate a range of socio-economic development benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, and poverty reduction, with far reaching implications for generating employment and raising incomes for African women as a particularly disadvantaged and marginalised group.
The AfCFTA is expected to make a significant contribution to the continent’s ongoing efforts to materialize the aspirations and goals contained in Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda. However, the full realization of the potential benefits of the AfCFTA will require speedy ratification and effective implementation of the Agreement, along with a range of supporting policies to address other barriers to trade, investment and industrialization. To this end, we need to build on the current political momentum to ensure the AfCFTA Agreement is implemented fully and effectively throughout the continent and is adequately anchored on appropriate institutions at national and continental levels.