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What is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the world’s largest free trade area which brings together 54 countries part of the African Union (AU) and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The objective is to create a customs union and eliminate trade barriers to boost intra-Africa trade, boost growth across the continent and help lift people out of poverty. With a combined population of 13 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately $3.4 trillion, this FTA represents a huge opportunity for African businesses/countries trading together but also for foreign businesses looking to enter Africa.

The AfCFTA came into force in May 2019 and the start of trading under the AfCFTA Agreement began on 1st January 2021.

Earlier this year, the then International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyann, announced a new UK Programme to support the implementation of the new trading bloc. Through creating a single continental market, the new agreement will make it easier and more cost effective for UK businesses to export their goods and services across the 54 member states as well as supporting the positive effects this will have on African countries.

Africa remains a high priority market for the UK government and UK businesses. UK Export Finance (UKEF), the export credit agency of the British government, actually tripled its investment in Africa to over £2 billion in the last 4 years. UKEF can offer foreign countries access to finance, loans and insurance on the condition that goods and services are sourced directly from UK businesses and also support UK businesses with financial guarantees for projects in Africa. They currently have billions of pounds in capacity to support project in African markets such as a €241m loan to the Ivory Coast Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene for the construction of six hospitals or a £42 million guarantee to a Gloucestershire-based company to export 87 emergency bridges to Ghana.

Africa hosts a wealth of opportunities for UK businesses and agreements like the AfCFTA reinforces growth prospects. Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce works very closely with our market partners to support our members entering African market.

We will be running a West Africa Business Clinic on 24th November. Please book here for a chance to have a 1-2-1 meeting with our experts and discuss your projects/challenges.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the team about how to grow in Africa, please contact

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