July 1 2020 was declared the Commencement date for the much-anticipated Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The newly appointed Secretary General, Mr. Mane Wamkele was expected to assume work from his Secretariat in Accra, Ghana by the 31st of March 2020. His assumption of office was expected to usher the official commencement of work hence grinding slowly to dot the i ‘s and cross the t ‘s for the grand commencement of Trade on the Continent however, the global pandemic (COVID-19) has made it impossible for this and many more plans to be realized.
There have been several suggestions from well meaning Africans across the Continent thus; the Commencement of Trade as scheduled on the calendar of the African Union should not be tempered with by the mere fact that, the pandemic is fast spreading.
Some have further suggested the usage of virtual platforms to get work done so as to keep the AU’s calendar up to date and intact.
The 1st July 2020 Trade Commencement on the Continent has been left in limbo however, in a brief interview with the Trade and Industry Commissioner of the Africa Union – H.E Albert Muchanga on the possibility of proceeding with Trade on the Continental level as planned and fixed in the AU’s calendar over the weekend, his responses were as follows;
- This decision has been left to the Member States and I can attest to that.
- The Heads of Member States are critically looking at the best way forward.
- We are expecting the Member States to get back to us hopefully by Wednesday with their final stands on whether Trade should commence in July or postponed.
- I will inform you of their decision immediately it’s communicated to my office.
Brief About AfCFTA
The AfCFTA is to create Continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.
The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision to establish AfCFTA by a tentative date of 2017.
The ACFTA will bring together 54 African nations with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion.
The 12th Extra Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State held in Niamey late last year endorsed the finality to the Free Trade Agreement of which Accra, Ghana was chosen to HOST the Secretariat. The Secretariat occupies 4 floors of the AFRICA TRADE HOUSE at Ridge in Accra.
South Africa’s Mane Wamkele was appointed and sworn in as the Secretary General of the Free Trade Area and was expected to assume office in Accra on the 31st of March 2020 but due to COVID-19, he is still locked up in South Africa waiting for the lifting of boarder closures.
So far, about 28 countries out of the 54 African nations have signed and ratified this agreement making it one of the fastest ratification procedures in the globe.