Trade is crucial for economic growth and food security and Africa has huge potential for trade both in global and intra-regional terms e.g. as a result of its natural resource endowment, agricultural potential, intra-regional complementarities. In recognition of this potential, the AU Heads of State and Government in January 2012, adopted the decision to create the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) later renamed to African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The major aim is the expansion of intra-African trade by lowering the trade barriers to goods and services, as well as the movement of people throughout the continent. The AfCFTA is viewed as a stepping stone that will lead to an African Common Market (ACM) and an African Economic Community (AEC) (effectively the Agenda 2063 of the African Union).
Following the Launch, negotiations were launched in Johannesburg in June 2015 and in 21 March 2018 in Kigali, after intense negotiations, 44 member States of the African Union signed the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). An additional 6 member States of the African Union signed the Kigali Declaration by which they committed to sign the Agreement of the African Continental Free Trade Area once they had undertaken necessary national consultations.
One of the key steps beyond the ratification of the Agreement is to prepare and submit tariff offers, under the modalities on goods that will determine the liberalization efforts to be undertaken between the States Parties to the Agreement. In the modalities for the liberalization of trade in goods that were adopted during the negotiation process, African Union member States agreed to remove at least 90 per cent of tariffs on goods imported from other States parties. The remaining 10 per cent tariffs include sensitive products that enjoy a longer tariff elimination period as well as excluded products where tariffs will remain..
The 6th meeting of the African Ministers of that took place from 3rd to 4th June 2018 in Dakar, Senegal, recommended the AUC and its Partners carry out a number of activities to assist AU Member States make market access offers to each other. The Ministers were mindful of the instructions by the Heads of State in the Kigali Summit on 21st March in Kigali, Rwanda that Member States submit schedules of concessions at the January 2019 Summit.
There was also recognition by the Ministers that negotiations on market access are very complex and that Member States require assistance to guide their national and regional consultations in a number areas. As such the CFTA Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry plans to organise as a first step a consultative workshop of ECOWAS, ECCAS, CEN-SAD and UMA with the aim towards finalising the modalities on trade in goods.