Ethiopia is the latest country to approve the African Union’s Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA pact after the cabinet passed the deal on Saturday, the Prime Minister’s office confirmed.
The PM’s office said: “The decision is consistent with PM Abiy’s vision of creating a closer & full regional integration — where minds are open to ideas & markets are open to trade. Ethiopia’s decision & track record of advocating Pan African causes will bring to reality an integrated Africa.”
Despite having passed the cabinet stage, it will proceed to the legislature for a final vote before instruments of ratification could be deposited with the AU chairperson.
According to the AU chief, Ethiopia’s impending ratification will become the eighteenth meaning only four other ratifications will be required for the pact to enter into force.
The AU had months earlier challenged countries from North Africa to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), seeing that all ratifications so far were from sub-Saharan Africa.
The spokesperson in the office of the AUC chairperson, Ebba Kalondo tweeted her optimism ‘to have a North African country among the historic 22 ratifications that will effectively bring the AfCFTA into force’.
To have the pact operationalized, the AU needs a minimum of 22 ratifications. Some of the earliest to ratify were: Rwanda, Kenya, Chad, Niger, eSwatini (Swaziland) and Ghana in a bid to create the largest trade zone in the world.
While all the North African countries signed the Kigali Declaration enacting the AfCFTA, none of them are yet to ratify the agreement.
‘‘We look forward to have a North African country among the historic 22 ratifications that will effectively bring the AfCFTA into force,’‘ AU chief’s spokesperson Kalondo said in a tweet.
From Southern Africa, Eswatini, Namibia and South Africa have ratified, while the AU has secured ratifications from Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti and Rwanda in East Africa.
In Central Africa, Chad and the Republic of Congo have ratified while West Africa has the most ratifications including from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Sierra Leone.
Once in force AfCFTA aims to increase intra-African trade by 52 per cent by the year 2022, remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, liberalise services and tackle other barriers to intra-African trade, such as long delays at border posts.