Implementation of AfCFTA deal postponed due to COVID-19 disruptions

African Continental Free Trade Area Secretary-General Wamkele Mene (right) poses for a photo with African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Ambassador Albert Muchanga (left) during the swearing in ceremony for the AfCFTA Secretary-General at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, March 19, 2020. PHOTO: TWITTER/African Union Department of Trade and Industry

The Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Wamkele Mene said on Tuesday that implementation of the free trade agreement will not be able to commence on July 1 due to the disruptions occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances,” Mene said.

Mene, who spoke to Reuters via conference call, however, did not elaborate on whether there was a new planned date for the implementation.

Despite the setback, Mene was optimistic that the deal would eventually proceed.

“The political commitment remains, the political will remains to integrate Africa’s market and to implement the agreement as was intended,” Mene said.

According to Mene, intra-African trade could help African countries get the ability to put together sizeable economic stimulus packages to help alleviate the economic devastation arising from the COVID-9 pandemic.

“That’s our stimulus package. That’s how we’re going to get back on track as Africa,” he said.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the AfCFTA is, by the number of participating countries, the largest trade agreement since the formation of the World Trade Organisation. Its implementation will form a $3.4 trillion economic bloc with 1.3 billion people across the continent.