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Contribution to Book
A Critical Appraisal of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement
Articles, Book Chapters, & Popular Press
  • Olabisi D Akinkugbe, Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law
Document Type
Book Chapter
Publication Date
  • African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement,
  • Regional Economic Community,
  • Pan-Africanism

Despite Africa’s fragmented sub-regional economic regimes, the AfCFTA Agreement represents a significant moment for African States to harness the continent’s international trade and investment opportunities on their own terms. The AfCFTA Agreement initiates a set of complex and lengthy negotiations with a view to reducing tariffs, galvanize industrial production and boost Africa’s trade. The success of Africa’s reinvigorated liberal internationalism embodied in the AfCFTA Agreement depends on a host of factors that primarily includes its effective implementation.

This Chapter situates the AfCFTA Agreement in the historical and contemporary contexts of the mixed performance of sub-regional economic communities and other regimes in which its implementation will be embedded. The Chapter also examines the pre-existing structural deficiencies that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore and their implications for the AfCFTA Agreement. Building on the foregoing, the Chapter also critically examines the blindspots of the pan-Africanist underpinning of the AfCFTA Agreement for the future of trade regime in Africa.

The Chapter examines the substantive provisions of the AfCFTA Agreement and its institutions focusing on the question of supranationality in the decision-making process. In the third section, I deepen the Chapter’s analysis by examining the promise of the AfCFTA in the shadow of Africa’s mixed record of economic cooperation. Based on the analyses of the systemic deficiencies in African regional trade regimes, as impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To illustrate the latter, I draw on the finance sector - debt burden conundrum and digitalisation. The examples are selected to illustrate areas where historical deep-seated challenges exist and emerging sectors that African leaders should capitalise for a better post-pandemic Africa. I contend that a critical understanding of pan-Africanism and in a morphological sense that acknowledges its shortcomings is important to understanding the attitude of African States to the lethargic implementation of regional trade agreements. Operating with such consciousness, I contend, engenders a better understanding of the intrigues of the implementation phase, as opposed to the narrow, lack of political will arguments.

Citation Information
Olabisi D Akinkugbe, "A Critical Appraisal of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement" in Kholofelo Kugler & Franziska Sucker, eds, International Economic Law from a (South) African Perspective (South Africa: JUTA Law, 2021) at 283-306.