Published On: Tue, Mar 31st, 2020

COVID 19 may disrupt the schedule of the African continental free trade agreement -AfCFTA

By Agnes Gitau

In every of the African Union member states, fighting the spread of Covid19 is the top priority. Every country is dedicating already strained resources to public healthcare provision whose infrastructure in the continent is already very weak. This means pushing every other commitment including the launch of the Africa free trade continental agreement to the back banner. The second Phase (operational Phase)  is expected to take place on the 1st July 2020.

Early indications despite optimism from the AfCFTA Secretariat indicate that some deadlines will certainly be missed due to the impact of Corona Virus. Scheduled meetings to deliberate on the operational phase which were due to take place in Addis Ababa were cancelled. AfCFTA  Secretary General Wamkele Nene has said it will be impossible to keep up to the schedule given the current situation. He is confident that the continent will find a way to deliver. 

COVID 19 – Africa Tracker

Though many countries led by Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya have shown some head start efforts to stamp out the disease, Many were decisive early enough, avoiding the confusion and dithering we say in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States. Many  social gatherings and school were shut very early on before the continent recorded many cases. This week however, the numbers of positive COVID 19 cases  are on the rise , prompting many countries to go on forced lockdown and others imposing curfews as an attempt to stop the spread.  The numbers of COVID 19  cases in 47 countries is slightly over 5000, 172 deaths and 371 recoveries. (AFRICA CDC).

Many economies in the continent are struggling due to the disruption  caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, Economists estimate the continent will struggle to meet the Sustainable development goals and will require at least $100 billion bail out to survive the pandemic. To ease the pressure and provide liquidity measures for commercial banks, many Africa countries announced interest rate cuts as they explore other economic stimulus to keep the continent moving.

Commodity dependant economies like South Africa and Nigeria have been worst hit. Credit rating agency Moodys has already down graded South Africa’s economy to Junk Status. we had a rallying call from IMF and World Bank on Africa creditors to consider Debt relief for many in the continent to ease the pressure so they can focus on fighting the pandemic.

Agnes Gitau is a managing partner at the Africa Advisory firm GBS Africa. @agnesgitau @gbsafrica


The AfCFTA will bring together all 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion. In terms of numbers of participating countries, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. Estimates from the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) suggest that the AfCFTA has the potential both to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, and to double this trade if non-tariff barriers are also reduced.

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.

Contributions from ECA.



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COVID 19 may disrupt the schedule of the African continental free trade agreement -AfCFTA
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