Although infrastructure has improved, there is still a long way to go to facilitate trade between countries. They cannot build a value chain across the continent if there are countless customs stamps, customs signatures and certificates to simply move a container from one country to another. Blockages and bureaucracy need to be reduced. Nigeria was one of the last nations to sign the agreement. With a population of 200 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has about 98 million inhabitants in the most populous countries, Ethiopia and Egypt. With a nominal GDP of $376 billion, or about 17% of Africa`s GDP, it is just ahead of South Africa, which accounts for 16% of the African economy. Given that Nigeria is such an important country in terms of population and economy, its absence at the first signing of the agreement was particularly striking. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted this in his comments of 12 July 2018, commenting: “The continent awaits Nigeria and South Africa. Through trade between us, we are able to maintain more resources on the continent. South Africa signed the agreement later.  The African Union has launched the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which, depending on the number of countries, will be the largest free trade area in the world once fully operational. Maryla Maliszewska , lead author, is a senior economist in Trade and Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI) at the World Bank.
His area of expertise covers various aspects of trade policy and regional integration, with particular emphasis on the impact of trade on poverty and income distribution. The agreement is seen as crucial to growth and job creation for Africa and its 1.27 billion people. Concluding the Nigerian agreement and entering the operational phase in July of this year was an important step: Eritrea was not part of the initial agreement because of the continuing state of war, but the 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended the conflict and ended the barrier to Eritrea`s participation in the free trade agreement.      The unrecognized state of Somaliland was not involved in discussions on the creation of the agreement. At the summit, Benin and Nigeria signed the agreement, so Eritrea is the only African state not to be part of the agreement; Since then, Eritrea has applied to join the agreement. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea also tabled their ratifications at the summit. At the time of launch, there were 27 states that had ratified the agreement.     Africa is acting, but not within the continent. The African Union wants to change that and create the largest free trade area in the world.
The plan has potential, but some Member States keep the AU in tension. (08.02.2019) The general objectives of the agreement are: After years of discussions, the aim is to create an internal market for goods and services in 54 countries, to allow the free movement of business travellers and to invest, to create a continental customs union for trade optimization and to attract long-term investment. In order to facilitate the implementation of the free trade area, the following institutions have been set up. As a result of the Phase II negotiations, additional committees may be set up through minutes.  The World Bank`s report, The African Continental Free Trade Area: Economic and Distributional Effects, aims to help policy makers implement policies that can maximize the potential benefits of the agreement while minimizing risks. Creating a continental market requires resolute efforts to reduce all business costs. Governments also need to develop strategies to increase the willingness of their workforce to take advantage of new opportunities. Yulia Vnukova advises the World Bank in the Department of Trade and Regional Integration (ETIRI).