The grant was approved by the Group’s Board of Directors on 1 April 2019.

The grant forms part of a series of interventions by the Bank in its lead role to accelerate the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, seen as a major force for integrating the 55-nation continent and transforming its economy.

AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, initialled for the continental body, Albert Muchanga and Andoh O. Mensah, representing the Bank’s Director of the Industrial and Trade Development Department (PITD), signed on behalf of the Bank, signalling the start of implementation.

Muchanga after signing the grant commended the Bank’s strong and consistent support to ensure smooth implementation of the Agreement.

He noted that the grant will be used judiciously for the rollout of various protocols relating to the structure and mandate of the AfCFTA Secretariat.

He further urged countries to use this period to complete the parliamentary processes.

“The AfCFTA is going to work, and we are confident that by the 1st of July next year, all the 55 countries will be state parties – meaning they would have signed and ratified the agreement and intra-African trading will start.”

Background

African leaders meeting at Niamey, Niger, in early July launched the implementation phase of the free trade area agreement established in March 2018, after it became operational at the end of May this year. Currently, 54 states have signed the deal and are set to begin formal trading next July.

The AU currently has an interim Secretariat in Ghana which tasked to provide the organisational structure for the permanent administrative body, its work programme and related issues including its budget. 

The Continental Free Trade deal has the potential to create the largest free-trade area in the world, uniting 55 African countries with a combined gross domestic product of more than US$2.5trillion. It is a major force for continental integration and expansion of Intra African trade, currently estimated at around 16%.

The trade agreement is expected to expand intra-African trade by up to US$35billion per year; ease movement of goods, services and people across the continent’s borders; and cut imports by $10billion, while boosting agriculture and industrial exports by seven percent and five percent respectively.