At the extraordinary summit of the AU that convened in Kigali on March 21, 44 of the 55 member states signed the text of a new African free-trade agreement called the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The complete package of legal instruments includes a founding agreement, protocols on trade in goods and services, with annexes on trade-related rules and procedures, and a dispute settlement mechanism. What does this development signal and what could change? An objective of the AfCFTA is to boost intra-African trade. It is designed to do so by forging a single continental legal regime for all relevant trade disciplines. This will include lower tariffs, simplified rules of origin and customs procedures, regulations for trade in services and remedies available to affected private parties. This is a bold vision but vital for advancing Africa’s economic development and capacity to integrate more effectively into the global economy. There is still a lot of work to be done befor...

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