While US-China trade tensions continue to escalate, Africa is quietly putting together a free trade agreement that spans the continent.
The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) came into force on Thursday after clearing a key procedural hurdle and being ratified by the parliaments of 24 countries.
The commissioner of Trade and Industry for the African Union, Albert Muchanga, confirmed in a tweet that the agreement is now in force and that a unified market would be launched July 7.
So far, 52 countries have signed the agreement. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has so far refused saying it needs to consult with domestic economic stakeholders before making a decision.
President Muhammadu Buhari is now reviewing an impact assessment report that will determine whether or not Africa’s most populous nation will join its counterparts in signing the agreement.
When fully implemented, the trade deal will create a single market for goods and services by removing existing trade barriers across Africa. The agreement is expected to boost regional trade by reducing tariffs and allowing companies to expand and enter new markets.
Analysts remain worried, however, about a lengthy implementation process.
Africa has a multitude of regional and national actors with sharply divergent interests on trade. Many legal details are still being finalized, and experts warn that enforcing the agreement will be a challenge.