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African Free Trade Area kicks off, but with reminders of major obstacles at borders

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Trucks parked at Beit Bridge border post.  (Gallo)
Trucks parked at Beit Bridge border post. (Gallo)

It was by coincidence rather than design that the African market got bigger on the same day that Europe shrunk.

Britain exited the EU on the first day of this year, just as African countries started trading under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). This agreement is set to create a tariff-free, single market for all of Africa's 1.27 billion people. 

Implementation of the free trade agreement had to be postponed by six months due to delays related to Covid-19 lockdowns, which saw closed borders and travel restrictions. But there are other issues, too, that could threaten the success of this treaty.  

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