AfCFTA is expected to commence January 1, 2021.

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The African Heads of States and Governments pose during African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which was earlier scheduled to kick-off on July 1, 2020 but was postponed due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic is now expected to commence from January 1, 2021. The Acting Chief Trade Negotiator/Director General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, Mr. Victor Liman confirmed this to Channels Television on Thursday.

The AfCFTA agreement was put together by the Africa Union in consultation with member nation and signed on by 44 out of the 55 member nations in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. Nigeria later signed the agreement after internal consultation than went for months.

The operational phase of the AfCFTA was subsequently launched during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey, Niger on 7 July 2019, following the ratification by 54 of all 55 African countries.

According to Liman and reported by Channels TV, the Extraordinary Africa Union Summits scheduled to be held in South Africa on May 30, 2020 has been postponed to December 5, 2020.

The summit is aimed at encouraging trade negotiators to complete their bargaining on tariff reductions, rules of origin and other necessary regulations.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single 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 Customs Union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The AfCFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The agreement will be governed by five operational instruments, i.e. the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.

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