“The commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on the 1st of January 2021 is one of the most significant milestones in the continental integration project,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union (AU). The implementation of the AfCFTA, although delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to begin anew with a focus first on easing trade for small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for 90 percent of jobs created on the continent.
One of the signatories to the agreement, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, was recently “swapped” by Donald Trump in an agreement with Israel and Morocco.
All 55 states of the African Union, except for Eritrea, signed and ratified the agreement after about 17 years of negotiation. Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, only deposited its ratification instrument on December 5 after having signed it a few weeks earlier. Eritrea is expected to sign soon.
Gyude Moore and Bogolo Kenewendo wrote in Foreign Policy, “Meanwhile, the official U.S. response to the AfCFTA has been ambivalent at best. To the chagrin of African leadership, the United States continues to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with Kenya in the hope of developing a model that could later be applied to other countries in Africa. This effort follows a period of decline in two-way trade between the United States and Africa: Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. exports to Africa have decreased by 32 percent, while exports from Africa to the United States have decreased by 55 percent in the same period.