The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) was launched on the 21 March 2018 with overwhelming support by African States. The FTA emerges against the backdrop of unsuccessful continental economic integration attempts, characterized by failed target-deadlines, multiplication of RTAs (the ‘spaghetti-bowl effect’) and political and governance issues. The AfCFTA re-arranges the African continental integration construct by employing a ‘top-down’ approach. This is a drastic departure from the ‘bottom-up’ structure championed by the African Economic Community (AEC) through Regional Economic Communities (RECs). This article examines the change in institutional framework adopted by the AfCFTA, the role that existing RECs have under the said Continental FTA, and aligns international instruments with legal provisions binding on Member States.
The Article focuses on trade facilitation which took centre stage during the Doha Development Round. African States have embraced trade facilitation, the AfCFTA has followed suit and has cemented provisions in its Protocol on Trade in Goods. An overwhelming majority of AfCFTA Signatory States are WTO Members, and have also ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA). The Article reconciles legal trade facilitation obligations of African Member States under the AfCFTA and the WTO TFA, and establishes the legal relationship between the AfCFTA and the WTO.Legal Issues of Economic Integration