KIGALI, Rwanda

Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was due to commence on July 1, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, an official said.

“There is a proposed launch date, January 2021. It has not been made official but it is believed that an expected African Union Summit in November, Heads of State will confirm the new launch date,” Rwanda-based The New Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, quoting Louis Yaw Afful, the executive director of the AfCFTA policy network, as saying.

Afful said while all 54 African countries signed the agreement to establish the AfCTA, many still need to deposit their instruments of ratification in order to benefit from the trade agreement.

As many as 30 countries have so far ratified the agreement.

“We need all of them because they wouldn’t benefit from a deal whose treaty they haven’t yet ratified,” he said.

He called on member countries that are yet to commit to full membership to submit their schedules of specific commitments on trade in services in line with the agreed modalities.

African Union member states must prepare a schedule of specific commitments outlining areas of specific treatment guaranteed to other members — such as market access.

On trade in services, an important part of the whole agreement, Afful noted that few countries have fully completed their schedules yet trading with each other cannot take place without individual country’s schedule.

The continental agreement is expected to boost intra-Africa trade by 53% through elimination of import duties and non-tariff barriers.

The AfCFTA was signed by African leaders at the African Union Summit in Rwandan capital Kigali in 2018, to create an African market of more than 1.2 billion people with an economy worth $2.5 trillion.

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