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What is the AfCFTA?

The AfCFTA at a Glance

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) represents a historic milestone in Africa's aspirations towards achieving economic integration. With the ambitious objective of creating a single market for goods and services across the continent, the AfCFTA is expected to help unlock Africa's trade potential and encourage sustainable development for a prosperous future.

Membership of the AfCFTA

The membership of the AfCFTA comprises 54 out of 55 African states recognised by the African Union, making it the largest free trade area by the number of participating countries. Eritrea is the only African Member State that has yet to sign the Agreement.  As far as ratification of the Agreement is concerned, as of July 2023, 47 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification, demonstrating a strong commitment to fostering regional trade and cooperation.

Explore our dashboard offering insights into the ratification status of countries by clicking here.

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Objectives of the AfCFTA

The AfCFTA seeks to establish a unified market for goods, services, and the free movement of people, fostering greater economic integration in alignment with the Pan African Vision of a united, prosperous, and harmonious Africa, as envisioned in Agenda 2063. The general and specific objectives of the AfCFTA are presented below.

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The Transformative Benefits of the AfCFTA

The AfCFTA holds numerous benefits for the African continent.


A fundamental objective of the AfCFTA is to foster an increase in both intra-African and extra-African trade. According to the projections put forth by the World Bank (2020), a notable surge in the total volume of exports is expected by the year 2035, with an approximate growth rate of almost 29% when compared to the baseline scenario. In this trajectory, intracontinental exports are expected to undergo a substantial upswing, exceeding 81%, while a parallel expansion of 19% is anticipated in exports to non-African nations. This development holds particular significance for countries such as Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, and Tunisia, where export values are expected are expected to rise by double or even triple.

As a consequence, the intrinsic worth of intracontinental trade is predicted to experience a notable rise, increasing from the current US$294 billion to a substantive US$532 billion by the year 2035. Amidst these transformative shifts, high rises in export values are foreseen for nations including Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire.


The implementation of AfCFTA will also yield a substantial regional output increase, estimated at US$ 211 billion by the World Bank by 2035. This outcome, however, displays variation when analysed across sectors. Notably, the  natural resources and services sectors are anticipated to witness the most significant gains, with projected growth rates of 1.7%. Correspondingly, the manufacturing sector is expected to observe a growth rate of 1.2%, while a contrasting trajectory is foreseen for agriculture, which is projected to experience a decline of 0.5%.


In terms of the volume of output, the services sector will undergo the most substantial expansion, projected at US$ 147 billion, followed by manufacturing with US$ 56 billion and natural resources with US$17 billion. It is noteworthy that the decline in agricultural output finds a counterbalance in the expansion observed in most parts of Africa, excluding North Africa. The latter region is anticipated to shift towards manufacturing, chemical products, and services. Additionally, trade in natural resources is expected to experience growth in Central and West Africa under the AfCFTA. This overarching trend underscores the pivotal role that rising incomes play in propelling the expansion of services across all regions.


Poverty and Job Creation:
The potential impact of the AfCFTA on poverty is significant. Full implementation by 2035 could uplift an additional 30 million individuals, equivalent to 1.5 per cent of the continent's population, out of extreme poverty. Notable variations emerge at regional and national levels, with West Africa foreseeing a reduction of 12 million, while Central and East Africa would witness decreases of 9.3 million and 4.8 million, respectively.


The most substantial gains would occur in countries with high initial poverty rates, such as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Niger, and the Central African Republic. Additionally, comprehensive AfCFTA implementation could elevate 67.9 million individuals beyond moderate poverty (at US$5.50, PPP-adjusted per day) by 2035. Enhanced household consumption, facilitated by increased trade openness, is expected to reinforce this outcome, with six nations – Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Niger – accounting for a significant proportion of those lifted from moderate poverty.

The World Bank study finds that the AfCFTA influences job reallocation as employment shifts from less competitive sectors to more advantageous ones. Shifts in employment will be observed by activity and according to demographic and urbanization trends. Agriculture and wholesale/retail trade would constitute half of continental employment. The agricultural sector's share of employment is expected to decline from 35.9% in 2020 to 29.7% in 2035, while wholesale/retail trade's share may rise from 16.9% to 20%.


Agriculture's employment role varies across regions; for example, it's projected to be 10.7% in North Africa, while East Africa might have 47.8%. The AfCFTA could also increase employment in energy-intensive manufacturing, public services, recreational and other services, and trade services, as indicated by a net rise in worker volume. Female wages rise faster in most regions due to the expansion of female labour-intensive industries. 

AfCFTA Implementation
Timeline and Milestones

The AfCFTA has marked significant milestones on its journey towards promoting trade and economic integration across Africa. The Agreement came into effect on May 30, 2019, for the 24 countries that had ratified it at the time. As of July 2023, 46 Member States have deposited their instruments of ratification, representing 85.2% of the signatories to the AfCFTA Agreement.

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The Guided Trade Initiative


The Guided Trade Initiative is a program launched by the AfCFTA Secretariat to pave the way for commercially meaningful trade under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Introduced on October 7, 2022, this initiative marks a significant milestone in the implementation of the AfCFTA, with a focus on creating a conducive environment for trade and investment across the continent.

The main objective of the Guided Trade Initiative is to pilot and fine-tune the operational, institutional, legal, and trade policy aspects of the AfCFTA. By selecting eight participating countries representing different regions of Africa, namely Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Tunisia, the initiative aims to gather valuable insights and practical experiences that can guide the successful implementation of the AfCFTA across the entire continent.

The AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative covers a range of products, including ceramic tiles, batteries, tea, coffee, processed meat products, starch, sugar, pasta, dried fruits, and sisal fibre. These products align with the AfCFTA's emphasis on value chain development and represent the interests of the participating countries from different regions across Africa. The initiative will be open to all countries that have verified and adopted offers and over 100 products have already been identified for trade opportunities.

Rwanda recently made its first export under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement to Ghana. The consignment of premium coffee from Igire Coffee, a women-led coffee processing firm, marked an important milestone in the implementation of the AfCFTA. In addition to Rwanda, Kenya also exported its first goods, Exide batteries, under the AfCFTA Agreement to Ghana. These early trade activities set the stage for commercially meaningful exchanges and demonstrate progress in realizing the potential of the AfCFTA. These exports mark a positive step towards realizing the objectives of the AfCFTA.  This serves as proof that trade under the AfCFTA is indeed feasible.

The AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative aims to facilitate meaningful trade among participating countries that meet the minimum requirements for trade under the Agreement. It involves matching businesses and products for export and import, coordinated by national AfCFTA Implementation Committees. The initiative also encourages the issuance of trading documents such as certificates of origin and declaration forms, ensuring alignment with AfCFTA requirements.

AfCFTA Guide

The AfCFTA Guide, meticulously crafted by numerous collaborators, is an indispensable resource for understanding the AfCFTA. It offers comprehensive explanations of the legal text and protocols of the agreement, providing clarity and insights on trade rules and the specific provisions in the agreement. Explore the guide to obtain a thorough understanding of this landmark agreement:

1. Trade in Goods

2. Trade in Services

3. Investment

4. Competition Policy

5. Intellectual Property Rights

6. E-Commerce and Digital Trade

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