African Continental Free Trade Area opens for business

Trade under the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which creates the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating, opened on 1 January 2021 among countries that have submitted their market access offers and ratified the agreement.

The AfCFTA pact, which was signed in March 2018, will ultimately connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion. It consists of three Protocols addressing Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes.

As of December 2020, 34 countries had ratified the agreement – Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Mauritius ratified the agreement in October 2019. In principle, countries and members of Customs Unions with which Mauritius can trade on preferential terms under the AfCFTA as from 1 January 2021 are as follows:

  • Member States – Egypt, Sao Tome and Principe
  • Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) – Cameroon, Chad, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon
  • East African Community (EAC) – Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Togo, Cabo Verde and Mali
  • Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – Eswatini, Namibia and South Africa

It should be noted that trade with COMESA/SADC member states will continue on the basis of the COMESA Treaty and the SADC Trade Protocol. Consequently, the AfCFTA opens up trade opportunities on non COMESA/SADC markets.

Details of the AfCFTA, the market access offers of the above countries and applicable rules of origin are available on the Mauritius Trade Portal at

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