Zambia latest country to ratify free trade deal

11 February 2021

Zambia has become the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, bringing the total number of member states to 23.

African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said there were now 18 member states which had signed but not yet ratified the agreement.

These are Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.

Eritrea is the only one of Africa’s 55 countries which has failed to make any commitment to be a member of the bloc.

Members of the AfCFTA agreement started to trade under the bloc’s terms on 1 January 2021. The agreement has the potential to cover 1.2bn people in a $2.5tn economic zone and to become the world’s largest trade agreement.

After Zambia ratified the deal it is now finalising its national AfCFTA strategy, which will shape how it implements the agreement.

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said he believes AfCFTA’s success will help Africa overcome some of its pressing economic challenges.

He called on other African states to work closely with the African Union’s secretariat to ensure the agreement succeeds. He said it had the potential to accelerate continental integration efforts.

The African Union Commission has said infrastructure development in Africa can play a vital role in facilitating continental integration and trade facilitation.

Infrastructure in Africa could form “the backbone of the realisation of the much-needed integration and trade facilitation in the continent”, said AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy Amani Abou-Zeid.

She said the continent’s post-Covid recovery depended on “the fast-tracking of Africa’s infrastructure development to improve resilience and improve livelihoods and economies”.

“The Covid-19 pandemic also accelerated digitalisation, exposed the gaps in energy in rural areas and highlighted the need to develop infrastructure that is smart, inclusive and sustainable,” she added.

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