Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade AREA (AfCFTA)


What’s New?

Background to the African Continental Free Trade Area

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was conceptualised in 2012 to enhance trade integration on the continent. The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), which took place in Ethiopia in 2012 endorsed an action plan to boost Intra-African Trade (BIAT), and thus agreed on a way forward to establish the AfCFTA.

The Agreement establishing AfCFTA came into force on 30 May 2019 and, so far, 30 countries on the continent have ratified the Agreement. As a member of the AU, South Africa endorsed the AfCFTA negotiations when they were launched during the 24th AU Assembly in June 2015, in South Africa. The negotiations were led by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as a key member of the negotiating team.

Objectives of the Agreement

  • Initiate a single market, deepening the economic integration of the continent
  • Establish a liberalised market through multiple rounds of negotiations
  • Promote the movement of capital and people, facilitating investment
  • Move towards the establishment of a future continental customs union
  • Achieve sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality and structural transformations within member states
  • Enhance competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market
  • Encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security
  • Resolve challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships

Benefits of free trade area

Once completed, the free trade area, which is of substantial economic interest to South Africa and the African continent, will provide a market of over 1 billion people with a GDP of over US$2.6 trillion.


South Africa’s commitment to implementing the agreement is key to its success and SARS is the implementing agency of preferential trade agreements. The execution of this Agreement will have an impact on SARS legislation, systems, Customs operations and training of officers.

SARS will be ready to implement the agreement before the revised due date. The date of entry into force was originally July 2020, but due to COVID-19, it was postponed to January 2021

For more information on the African Continental Trade Area, send an email to [email protected].

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