The much anticipated African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would not become operational this year anymore due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials of the secretariat in-charge of executing the trade zone say it is likely the new date for operating the deal would be January 1 next year.
During a webinar organised by the Africa CEO Forum, AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene said the new target date would however be subject to how the virus spreads in Africa.
“We have made a recommendation that in the next six months the free trade zone could start trading but subject to the pandemic itself,” he said.
The trade deal was originally scheduled to start operating from July 1 but Mene said “It is not credible for us to say that we are trading from July 1 when we know that trucks at borders are lined up 40 to 50 kilometres.”
Should the continental free-trade zone become operational it would be the world’s largest free trade area uniting 1.3 billion people and creating a $3.4 trillion economic bloc.
The free trade zone is considered a critical action to usher Africa into a new era of development.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will have 54 African Union (AU) members.
African countries only do about 16 per cent of their business with each other with the African Union hoping to change this trend with the deal when it comes into effect.
The AfCFTA is a major project of the AU’s long-term development plan Agenda 2063, which emphasis the need to ease trade and travel across the continent.