Business and the Commonwealth (I): The African Continental Free Trade Area


  • Arif Zaman (ICwS)
  • Dr. Brendan Vickers (International Trade Policy Section, Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat)
  • Frank Matsaert (CEO, TradeMark East Africa)
  • Karishma Banga (Overseas Development Institute)
  • Dr. Nnamdie Madichie (Bloomsbury Institute)

On New Year’s Day when the UK exited the world's largest trading bloc of the EU, the largest free-trade area in the world in terms of the number of participating countries opened for business in Africa with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The new market, created under the AfCFTA agreement is estimated to be as large as 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion with the potential of lifting up to 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. It is also expected to boost intra-African trade, promote industrialization, create job, and improve the competitiveness of African industries on the global stage.

The significance of this needs to be better understood as well as the challenges that remain so that it can achieve its potential. In the first in a seminar series on Business and the Commonwealth, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies is convening a panel discussion to consider the real importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area. The series is being held in association with the Commonwealth Research Network on International Business and builds on panels at AIB conferences since 2012.

The event will review the current state of play and ask how transformative and inclusive it can be, especially for women and youth? Given the impetus on Commonwealth trade since the 2018 London CHOGM, what are the implications for other Free Trade Agreements in the Commonwealth especially but not exclusively those that involve the UK given the House of Commons International Trade Committee Report on Trade and the Commonwealth: developing countries?

The event coincides with the launch of a major report from ODI on ‘E-commerce in trade agreements; implications for AfCFTA and African businesses’ which follows a report from Google and the IFC at the end of 2020 which highlighted that throughout the global pandemic, Africa’s Internet economy is proving resilient, as digital startups across the continent devise innovative solutions to problems in a fast-changing world and policies are articulated for promoting African digital multinationals for a more inclusive post-pandemic future.

Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Arif Zaman (ICwS), Dr. Brendan Vickers (International Trade Policy Section, Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat), Frank Matsaert (CEO, TradeMark East Africa), Karishma Banga (Overseas Development Institute) and Dr. Nnamdie Madichie (Bloomsbury Institute)
Event date: 
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 - 5:00pm