The African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga on Sunday said he expected the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to formally launch operations in July this year.
Speaking during a press conference on the sidelines of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Muchanga said the formal start of operations of the AfCFTA is expected to be launched during another AU summit to be held in Niamey, capital of Niger in July.
"We have 12 African countries that have deposited the instrument of ratification at the AU, before the end of the summit we expect two more countries to ratify the agreement," he said.
"By March 21, 2019, the first anniversary of the launch of the AfCFTA, we expect we will fill the quota of 21 member states needed for the free trade agreement to come into force," said Muchanga.
"With the expected start of operations of AfCFTA in July, the AU expects member states to start to liberalize trade relations with each other, reduce trade tariff among African countries and come up with mechanism to monitor the application of non-tariff barriers by some member states," said the commissioner.
The AU in the meantime is trying to come up with a standardized quality regime and other trading rules to attract large economies like Nigeria which has so far opted not to ratify the free trade agreement.
The AU hopes the AfCFTA will boost private sector growth in Africa and is working to launch a Pan-African manufacturers' association in anticipation of the free trade area coming into force later this year.