African free trade agreement delayed due to COVID-19

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which aims to create the world’s largest barrier-free trade zone, will not be able to start functioning on the scheduled date of July 1 because of the coronavirus, a setback that adds uncertainty to Africa’s most ambitious integration plan.

The beginning of the operational phase of the treaty was outlined this year as the star event in the political agenda of the African Union (AU), but the COVID-19 pandemic that has the planet on edge has stopped the project’s take-off in its tracks.

“The date (for the start) of trade, set for July 1, must be postponed,” AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene, who was sworn in on March 19, became the first to hold the newly created post designed by the AU to make the agreement operational, told Efe.

Focus is on saving lives

“The priority, for the moment, should be to fight the pandemic, the priority should be to save lives,” Mene said by phone from the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, where he is waiting for a re-opening of the borders closed because of the coronavirus to relocate to his office in Ghana. According to the Secretary-General, there is now an urgent need to “give governments space to address this unprecedented public health crisis” and, once the virus is “defeated”, they can “refocus on trade objectives”.

It is expected that in the coming weeks “the heads of state will determine another new date,” because “they are aware of the uncertainty associated with not having a clear date,” Mene said. The AU Commission “has proposed 1 January 2021 as the new tentative date for the start of trade under AfCFTA,” the trade coordinator of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), David Luke from Sierra Leone, told Efe.

“The COVID-19 crisis has inevitably impacted on AfCFTA implementation. Negotiations have been suspended to complete some pending technical elements, such as rules of origin – products made in Africa – for some sensitive sectors, the exchange of tariff concessions on trade in goods and commitments on trade in services,” Luke explained. In fact, the epidemic has led to the cancellation of a special AU summit that South Africa, which this year holds the rotating presidency of the continental organization, had scheduled for May in order to close those loopholes.

Borders currently closed due to the pandemic

Numerous voices had been raised in recent weeks on the continent in favour of delaying the start of trade under the treaty, such as former Nigerian Foreign Minister Bolaji Akinyemi, who recommended a “twelve-month wait” because “all the factors that underpin AfCFTA are in suspension”.

To date, the pandemic has not punished the continent with the fury seen in other areas of the world, such as Europe or the Americas, as there have been just over X deaths and X infections in a population of over 1.2 billion people.

However, the drastic measures imposed by governments to contain the spread of the coronavirus, such as confinement or the closure of businesses that pose a risk to public health, have minimised economic activity. As the coordinator of the CUTS International think tank in Ghana, Appiah Kusi Adomako, explained to Efe, “Most of the land and air borders have been closed. You can’t do cross-border trade with closed borders.

Apart from the difficulty of trading remotely, the pandemic threatens to devastate the continent’s economies because of the lower demand from African trading partners such as the US, the European Union (EU) or China, which have been hit hard by the virus; the lower cost of African exports and the disruption of supply chains. Given this panorama, UNECA, based in Addis Ababa, has lowered its forecast for growth in Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this year from 3.2% to 1.8% due, in the words of its executive secretary, Cameroon’s Vera Songwe, to the “sudden shock” that is shaking the economies.

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Kevina Takoordyal has a BA Hons Business Management from the University of Glamorgan, UK, with MBA in leadership and Innovation, MBA General, PMP Certified, and Agile Scrum Master. She currently works as the Head of Operations at Africa HR Solutions Ltd with more than 20 years of proven leadership capabilities in Operations, Business Development, People Management, Process Optimization, and Project Management in the Financial Services, BPO, Banking Industry, and Heath Care Industry. In Senior leadership roles with an international footprint across Europe working and extensive Pan- African experience from a compliance, finance, and operations angle, Kevina comes across with a panoply of cross-functional skills. Kevina also serves on a few Boards, Non-Independent Executive at MioD and for NGOs on a voluntary basis, a coach and mentor to aspiring female leaders across Africa and Mauritius.

Kevina is a firm believer in Servant Leadership with a strong focus and commitment to uplifting others, with the ability to deliver through a highly engaged – diverse team, and works towards consistently synergistic value creation. While being a focused and adaptive thinker and Kevina is actively participating in panel discussions on Innovation, CX, Digital transformation.

Kevina serves as Project Assessor for the National Youth upskilling program. She has been recognized as Global Talent in a few companies, Ceridian, and International SOS Ltd whereby she has been awarded a few scholarships and had the opportunity to be mentored by Senior Vice President in the US. Award Winner in various fields and at a national level and recognized including Super Achiever Leader Award in Africa in 2016, Awarded Africa Women Leader 2018.



Head of Legal & Compliance

A qualified lawyer who joined Africa HR Solutions in July 2020, Mark Du Preez has experience working in private practice for a reputable law firm in South Africa. He also played commercially focused roles at a leading private bank, wealth management company, and outsourcing firm in South Africa and Mauritius.

Mark has played a pivotal role in Africa HR Solution’s risk mitigation strategy, which positively impacted P&L performance over the years.

He currently leads the Partnerships function of the company including relationships and oversight with in-country partners (ICPs) across Africa.

alex daruty


Head of Commercial

Alex has more than 15 years of experience in the global, strategic development of both enterprise and consumer brands in categories including technology, transport, enterprise software, entertainment, and travel.

With experience in roles on both agency and corporate side, he has worked across international brands and has led the development and execution of multi-discipline campaigns across EMEA, NORAM and Asia Pacific.

His focus is on driving meaningful business impact through brand differentiation and building high-functioning, digitally oriented, and analytically driven capabilities. He is motivated by working with, and developing dynamic people, teams, and organizations.

He leads, manages, develops and mentors the Key Account Management department, including line management responsibility for the team of Key Account Managers and Key Account Administrator who represent the Company as the primary communication link between all relevant stakeholders, including clients, third party in-country partners and internal functions.

Originally from Mauritius, he holds bachelor’s degrees in International Business, Finance and Management from the University of Nevada, Reno.