African Continental Free Trade Area

AfricanContinentalFreeTradeArea

Ratified (dark green) and light/medium green (not ratified)

There is an African proverb which warns that "only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet" – which is a pertinent consideration as the continent's 54 sovereign states take a step towards greater economic unity. If the dream of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) gets off the ground, it will become the largest economic bloc on the planet, serving a population of 1.27 billion. But before African nations leap in with both feet, there are voices counselling caution. Some are questioning why African economies, under the guidance of the African Union, are seeking greater integration when much of the rest of the world seems increasingly drawn to isolationist policies. During a World Economic Forum debate in South Africa in 2019, Ngaire Woods,  a senior research fellow and professor of global economic governance at Oxford University suggested there would inevitably be winners and losers – and she drew a comparison with the European Union and its current issues, particularly with Brexit. Ngaire Woods said that while the project was "a big opportunity", Africa shouldn’t just throw down all the barriers. The consequences of liberalisation, she said, could damage some of the poorest countries. She urged that those driving AfCFTA should keep the political debate and economic advantages together. She said: "You have to pool sovereignty, but if people don’t trust your government; if they think the arrangements only benefit a small minority they will say they want to take back control, and that’s the situation that Britain finds itself in." Even at these early stages of continental union, African countries are cautious, including Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, which needed many assurances before putting its name to the beginning of the operational phase of AfCFTA. However, many have realised that, currently, it's easier for an African nation to trade with the rest of the world than it is to trade with its neighbour. So while there may be winners and losers, Africa's vastly diverse economies seem to be on course to take the leap.


What trade deals are there with other countries and economic unions?

None

Member Countries


Country
Population (2018)
GDP Growth (2021, %)
Date Joined
11,485,674
6.6000
07/07/2019
19,751,651
6.9063
01/04/2019
24,678,234
3.4866
19/07/2019
15,353,184
-1.2000
01/04/2019
5,399,895
-3.5000
01/04/2019
24,905,843
7.0215
01/04/2019
971,408
4.3097
01/04/2019
99,375,741
3.3267
01/04/2019
1,313,894
-0.9454
01/04/2019
1,391,385
7.4261
01/04/2019
107,534,882
5.6373
01/04/2019
2,067,561
1.5054
01/04/2019
2,163,765
5.6265
01/04/2019
29,463,643
5.3565
01/04/2019
13,052,608
3.1232
01/04/2019
50,950,879
7.5174
01/04/2019
19,107,706
3.0699
01/04/2019
4,540,068
2.2997
01/04/2019
2,587,801
2.4306
01/04/2019
22,311,375
1.3521
01/04/2019
195,875,237
3.6472
07/07/2019
12,501,156
10.8845
01/04/2019
208,818
1.8000
01/04/2019
16,294,270
6.0645
01/04/2019
7,719,729
3.0502
29/04/2019
57,398,421
4.9146
01/04/2019
7,990,926
5.2606
01/04/2019
44,270,563
3.3796
01/04/2019
567,421
0.0000
29/04/2019
16,913,261
5.8494
01/04/2019