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Trading based on the AfCFTA; A welcome move to support the post-COVID-19 economic recovery process

Trading based on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) kicked off on 1st January 2021, creating a single continental market for goods and services to boost intra-Africa trade, economic growth, and development.

Trading based on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) kicked off on 1st January 2021, creating a single continental market for goods and services to boost intra-Africa trade, economic growth, and development.

According to the World Bank, AfCFTA is projected to increase the intra-African trade volume by 81% by 2035 and increase total African exports by 29%. The AfCFTA connects 55 countries with a combined population of 1.3 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 3.4 trillion.


 African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now has 28 full member countries, with 26 more signed on to the project as future members.

 The AfCFTA comes when COVID-19 has ravaged economies threatening to scale back years of progress in transport and trade facilitation and weaken strides made in integration and international cooperation. For the Northern Corridor Member States, the Agreement provides an opportunity to leverage on the larger markets and deepened coordination to bounce back the COVID-19 ravaged economies.

The African Business Council (AfBC), the apex body on the promotion and lobby of the Pan-African Business interests, projects the start of trading under the AfCFTA presents enormous business opportunities for the Pan-African Private Sector, SMEs, Women, and Youths as the continent takes this bold move towards Boosting Intra-African Trade.

Low levels of Intra-African trade and high costs of doing business are caused mainly by Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that comprise a wide array of regulatory and procedural barriers to trade, except regular customs duties. Regulatory and procedural barriers include customs operations and border documentation requirements, rules of origin documentation, and pre-shipment inspections. Other trade barriers come from transport regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), and technical barriers to trade (TBTs).

As policymakers, governments, businesses, and societies seek ways to steer the economies to recovery, addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) is now more critical than ever. NTBs slow down the movements of goods and make the cost of doing business unbearable.


Africa Free Trade Agreement Is Largest Trade Deal Since the World Trade Organization (WTO)

The AfCFTA however promises smooth cross-border transit and trade facilitated by the online system on the Monitoring, Reporting and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers ( Through the online tool, the private sector can file a complaint on specific trade obstacles. The complaint is then transmitted to the responsible trading partner’s government to react to the complaint and resolve it within concrete timelines. The reported NTBs will also feed into national and regional trade policy improvements.

As one of the objectives of AfCFTA, given the different overlapping Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Agreement aims at simplifying trading regimes. Beyond streamlining customs procedures, digital tools like online information portals, single windows, digital documentation, electronic payments, electronic certificates, and automated processing of trade declarations will help expedite trade-related procedures.

Along the Northern Corridor region, interventions to make the member countries reap more benefits have been ongoing including infrastructure development, modernization of road protecting infrastructure like weighbridges and one stop border posts which play key role in facilitating transboundary trade by enhancing efficiency of border crossing, facilitating cross border trade including informal trade in Africa, among others.

Whether the AfCFTA will succeed and offer optimum benefits and impact, especially along the Northern Corridor, will depend on member countries implementing and complying with the Agreement’s provisions.

With the post-COVID-19 economic recovery process among key priorities for many countries, complementary policies, infrastructure development, and initiatives to enable businesses and individuals to take advantage of trade and RECTs investment opportunities under the AfCFTA would facilitate greater uptake of AfCFTA opportunities.

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