The African continental free trade area (ACFTA or AfCFTA), is a free trade area project being created across the African continent. It should bring together the tripartite free trade area, which should include the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community ( SADC), with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Arab Maghreb Union and the Community of States Sahelo-Saharan. The objective of the project is to eventually integrate all 55 States of the African Union within the free trade area.
The decision to launch the continental free trade area project was taken in January 2012, during the 18th ordinary session of the African Union Conference. The objective set to create this free trade area is the year 20175.
The negotiation process was launched in June 2015 in Johannesburg during the 25th ordinary session of the African Union Conference. During this session, the objectives, the principles, the roadmap to create the AfCFTA are set.
In February 2016, the first negotiation forum for the continental free trade area was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The same month, a meeting was held in Abidjan to prepare this forum, bringing together, in addition to the regional communities listed above, members of the United Nations, the African Union, the African Development Bank and members of the civil society.
In May 2016, the second negotiating forum for the continental free trade area was held in Addis Ababa. It aims to define the contours of the AfCFTA, all in collaboration with the United Nations and the African Union.
In October 2016, the third negotiation forum for the continental free trade area was held in Addis Ababa.
On March 21, 2018, 44 countries are signatories to a summit in Kigali. A few other countries with reservations are not joining the project, such as Nigeria, Burundi, Eritrea, Namibia and Sierra Leone.
At the end of December, only 7 of the 22 States needed to ratify it remained to be ratified10. On April 29, 2019, the threshold of 22 states was reached with the ratification of Western Sahara and Sierra Leone.
On July 7, 2019, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, sign the free trade agreement at an African Union summit in Niamey, Niger, bringing the number to 54 number of signatory countries. Eritrea becomes the only African country that has not joined the AfCFTA.
On December 15, 2019, Algeria ratified the free trade agreement.
After several days of debate, the African Union decided with a vote of the member states on February 10, 2020, at the end of the day. The South African Wamkele Mene was elected Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area.