“The African Continental Free Trade Area: The Role of EU Support for Africa’s Historic Trade Agreement”, Iona Lungu (ÖGFE, Austria)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an exceptionally ambitious project of Pan-African integration. Eliminating tariffs on intra-African imports is, however, not enough. Key issues such as non-tariff barriers, infrastructure and industrialisation need to be addressed for the agreement to deliver on its promises. The risk is that the political momentum will wane, as African Union Member States attempt to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. As countries progressively liberalise trade by 2030, implementation of the agreement remains the biggest challenge of the AfCFTA. Currently, the conclusion of negotiations has been hindered by COVID-19, and the start of trade under the AfCFTA trade regime has been delayed for January 2021. To help meet this target, the EU, historically one of the first supporters of the AfCFTA, needs to intensify and coordinate support targeted at finalising Phase I negotiations and focus on implementation of the agreement.

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