The situation: African heads of state and government met in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a draft agreement establishing the Continental Free Trade Area (“CFTA”) and other related protocols. 44 of the 55 Member States of the African Union have signed the agreement. If 22 states have ratified it, the agreement will enter into force. It goes without saying that East Africa will continue to face a number of challenges, including one shared by all countries on the continent: the need to quickly finalize tariff offers and ongoing negotiations on rules of origin, as well as timetables for the provision of services. This common challenge will be particularly difficult, as negotiations in areas such as services and Phase II, such as competition and protection ownership measures, will inevitably be quite complex and highly technical. The strongest safeguards are “trade remedies,” including a measure allowing countries to apply anti-dumping duties on imports below their fair value, to offset the impact of duties on imports subject to unjustified subsidies. Whatever its historical significance, much remains to be done before countries can benefit from a free trade area. Countries committed to the agreement are expected to present their timetables for concessions for trade in goods and services by next year. Concession schedules outline products and services that countries will no longer tax. The African Continental Free Trade Area only came into force when 22 of the signatory countries ratified the agreement, which took place in April 2019, when The Gambia was the 22nd country to ratify it.  In August 2020, there are 54 signatories, of which at least 30 have ratified and 28 have tabled their ratification instruments.
   The three countries that have ratified their ratifications but have not yet tabled are Cameroon, Angola and Somalia, although Morocco is also ratified.   Since the EU and South Africa concluded a Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) in 1999, the two sides have maintained healthy and growing trade relations. In June 2016, the EU and South Africa signed the Southern Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (SADC EPA), which governs merchandise trade between the two regions, with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland, which governs merchandise trade between the two regions, replacing the TDCA`s trade provisions. Several committees have been established for trade in goods, trade in services, rules of origin, trade policy measures, non-tariff barriers, technical barriers to trade, and health and plant health measures.  Dispute resolution rules and procedures are still being negotiated, but should also include the appointment of a dispute resolution authority.  The Committee of Senior Trade Officials implements the Council`s decisions. The Committee is responsible for the development of programmes and action plans for the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.  The Nigerian Manufacturers` Association (MAN) commended the Nigerian government for not signing the framework protocol because the proposed agreement was vague in terms of market access and the application of rules of origin. Maryla Maliszewska , lead author, is a senior economist in Trade and Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI) at the World Bank. His area of expertise covers various aspects of trade policy and regional integration, with particular emphasis on the impact of trade on poverty and income distribution.