The question of whether ratification of the AfCFTA agreement means that the European Union should start negotiations with the African Union for a trade agreement between the EU and the AU to succeed the existing EPAs has already been debated in Germany. At present, such negotiations would not be possible or useful. And the African side is not incentivized, as most countries in sub-Saharan Africa already have completely free access to EU markets. This applies not only to all countries participating in the EPAs, but also to all LDCs that benefit from unilateral EU trade preferences. South Africa and North African countries already enjoy wide duty-free access for industrial products. Nevertheless, Jean-Claude Juncker, when he was President of the European Commission, said that the European Union would be open to trade negotiations with the African Union once the AfCFTA was completed, if Africa wanted it. As such, the European Union has shown the necessary political will to which Africa can return. But we can`t expect it at this time. To what extent could AfCFTA contribute to intra-African trade? As noted above, it will take a long time for the economic impact to be felt. According to the IMF, the liberalization of 90% of trade within the AfCFTA would result in a relatively modest 16% increase in trade. The reason is that 90% of liberalisation may seem impressive, but in reality it is not very ambitious. In most countries, most imports are already duty-free; In Namibia, for example, it is about 60%. Therefore, if 10% of products are excluded from tariff reductions, the most dynamic categories may be excluded.
Economists Peter Draper and Andreas Freytag go so far as to prevent the AfCFTA from achieving real significant liberalization. It is not yet clear how the current negotiation process will proceed. The objective of the creation of a single African free trade area under the aegis of the African Union could certainly give the impression that the result will be a unique instrument of African liberalisation in which each country will present its offer of liberalisation to all other members of the African Union before negotiating a single agreement on that basis. This would be consistent with the WTO approach. But it already appears that the process will not develop in this way. With the AfCFTA Treaty, African states are working to reach a comprehensive and modern agreement covering trade in goods and services, but also on new issues. The rules on the free movement of persons aim at broad mobility and the abolition of visas. However, since each country can impose any type of restriction under Article 34, it remains to be seen what the real value of the agreement is.
In a second phase of the negotiations, a regulatory framework for investment, competition policy and intellectual property is planned. The proposed timetable for the latter (early 2020) has not already been reached. With regard to the new issues, it is unlikely that the partners will go beyond WTO rules and existing regional cooperation agreements.