Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken steps to accelerate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) within the region. The ECOWAS Commission has developed an implementation strategy for the AfCFTA to integrate West African economies more effectively into the continental market and capitalize on growth and prosperity opportunities.
During the 90th Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers held in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, the ECOWAS Council endorsed the implementation strategy. This move follows the strategy’s earlier adoption by ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry (ECOMOTI) during their third ministerial meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in April.
The implementation of this strategy is deemed timely as it aligns with the African Union’s ambition for the “Acceleration of AfCFTA’s Implementation,” which officially began on January 1, 2021. This marked the initiation of trade within a single African market encompassing 54 countries, including 13 ECOWAS Member States.
The strategy aims to enhance the region’s trade integration framework, promote coordination among Member States in their national AfCFTA implementation strategies, strengthen the productive capacity of Member States, build their capacity to engage in strategic African trade policy, and ensure that the AfCFTA positively impacts women’s and youth economic empowerment.
By removing barriers to trade in goods and services and facilitating investments across Africa, the full implementation of the AfCFTA is expected to significantly boost intra-Africa trade, especially in value-added production sectors. It has the potential to open up new economic opportunities, create jobs, lift millions out of poverty, and provide a substantial income boost of $450 billion to Africa by 2035.
As of February 2023, 24 countries and one regional economic community had validated their implementation strategies, with nine national strategies already in progress ten national strategies and two other regional economic communities in the drafting stage. ZIJ/19/9/2023