The 12th African Union extraordinary meeting on AfCFTA was convened to bring the new agreement into its operational phase, which was held in Niamey on 7 July 2019.   The implementation of afCFTA, although delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to resume in January 2021, with the initial focus on facilitating trade for small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for 90% of the jobs created on the continent. But the world that AfCFTA will address in January will be very different from the world in which it was conceived. There are more challenges than ever before, thanks in part to the economic destruction of the pandemic – « an unprecedented health and economic crisis, » said the International Monetary Fund, « which threatens to take the region off, reverses the progress of recent years and slows the region`s growth prospects in the years to come. » These projects, in coordination with European, Japanese and Indian partners, could have a significant impact on economic growth in Africa and on Africa`s expansion as an external market for goods and services. As is currently believed, Prosper Africa will be a single point of contact for increasing trade and investment between U.S. and African companies. The initiative has clear links with afCFTA and, if fully implemented and adopted, could bring benefits to both players. Indeed, Africa will benefit even more from trade diversification and value chain growth than through a single free trade agreement. Most African exports are raw materials: agriculture and mineral products, with about 70% of the value added outside the continent. The limited value-added is partly the result of trade agreements that penalize processed products from Africa in favour of raw materials. And these agreements need to be amended so that the continent benefits the most from afCFTA.
In addition to the effects of the pandemic, there is also the continent`s existing commercial architecture to overcome. Today`s regional trade agreements « show narrow trade patterns, depend on primary products and have a low level of intermediate trade, » said William Amponsah, a trade expert quoted by the United Nations. In fact, intra-African trade is dominated by a handful of countries that sell a handful of products. Although this situation is improving, there remains a problem that a simple increase in intra-African trade would not solve. Most AU member states have signed the agreement. Benin, Botswana, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Zambia did not sign the agreement.  Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was particularly reluctant to join if it against Nigerian entrepreneurship and Nigerian industry.  On 7 July 2019, Nigeria and Benin pledged to sign free trade with Africa at the 12th Special Session of the Association`s Assembly on ACFTA; Eritrea is the only country among the 55 member states of the African Union that has not signed the agreement.    In order to ensure effective implementation, the AU will establish an AfCFTA secretariat, consisting of an African Economic Council, a trade observatory and a dispute resolution body.