African Free Trade Bloc Faces Hurdles

Garment workers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shutterstock.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which brings together 54 African countries in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc that aims to eliminate 90 percent of tariffs on goods, officially launched on January 1, but is struggling to gain momentum in part due to the pandemic.

Signatories include South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt and Ethiopia, all of which are either emerging or established manufacturing and sourcing hubs for the apparel and textile industries.

AfCFTA’s efforts to break up trade barriers between countries could take over six months to come into effect, as Covid-19 has forced some African countries to close their borders to people and certain goods. This means the economic benefits of a free trade agreement may not be felt by garment workers for even longer.

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