Guillermo Arenas is an economist in the Department of Trade and Regional Integration (ETIRI) at the World Bank. His area of expertise covers various aspects of the international economy and public order, including trade policy, export competitiveness and impact analysis. According to a 2014 African Development Bank study, only 16% of African countries` international trade is between African countries. Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director of the Trade Law Centre, a South African-based think tank, told Africa Renewal that while the free trade area could significantly improve competitiveness and promote intra-African trade, it also requires «strong technical leadership and capacity to help member states in future negotiations…. We are also witnessing strong protective currents in the global economy. At the summit, Benin and Nigeria signed the agreement, so Eritrea is the only African state not to be part of the agreement; Since then, Eritrea has applied to join the agreement. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea also tabled their ratifications at the summit. At the time of launch, there were 27 states that had ratified the agreement.     In addition, the ECOWAS Commission can help its member states harmonize customs practices under its revised regional customs code. It can also encourage the use of its non-tariff barrier notification mechanism (NTB) and related institutional structures, which are part of the ECOWAS Free Trade Area.
In particular, the Commission can support the establishment of the AfCFTA-NTB notification mechanism by ensuring that it is compatible with the existing NTB notification mechanism and with the institutional structures of West Africa. What complicates matters further is that Africa was already divided into eight separate free trade zones and/or union unions, with different regulations. [Note 1] These regional bodies will continue to exist; The African Continental Free Trade Agreement aims firstly to remove barriers to trade between the various pillars of the African Economic Community and, finally, to use these regional organizations as building blocks of the ultimate goal of an African-wide customs union.     Towards a trade partnership between Africa and Europe Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Trade, European Commission «A smart person is someone who hears the Council,» says a Kikuyu proverb. It is with this in mind that the European Commission has published a comprehensive strategy with Africa. Each AFRICA-EU strategy should be jointly developed and implemented jointly by the EU and Africa. The same goes for our trade relations. Hartzenberg expects some of the 11 countries to sign the agreement at the next AU summit in June 2018. It advises countries to «subscribe to rules-based governance.
They must implement their commitments consistently and, if they do not, there should be consequences for those countries. This means that dispute resolution is an essential part of a rules-based AfCFTA. Maryla Maliszewska , lead author, is a senior economist in Trade and Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI) at the World Bank. His area of expertise covers various aspects of trade policy and regional integration, with particular emphasis on the impact of trade on poverty and income distribution. In Kigali, Rwanda, where the framework protocol was signed in March last year, African heads of state and government were optimistic. If – or when – the 55 African countries ratify the free trade area, it would together represent more than $4 trillion in consumer and business spending, and a market size of 1.2 billion people.