While the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is built off the continent's eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), it remains of interest how it will operate relative to these groupings, where there are already many overlapping memberships.

Each REC has a different approach to economic integration, and some have already formed customs unions or free trade areas of their own – or they are in the process of doing so. Others have simply not yet achieved that level of economic integration.

While the AfCTA text acknowledges these, and the potential confusion they could create, it does also state that generally, its outlines are intended to take precedence.

Further complexities could arise where countries or RECs already have trading agreements in place with other countries or bodies, such as those already in place with the European Union, while yet other countries already have some bilateral trade agreements in place.

It may be auspicious for AfCTA to turn to other already established similar bodies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) for learnings on how best to navigate the intricacies of the many trade agreements already in place, and those yet to come.

AfCTA creates a platform for many opportunities for Africa's people and governments, as well as for businesses seeking to grow on the continent. As a legal and tax advisory firm with on-the-ground expertise in more than 47 African countries, Andersen facilitates a clear and simple process aimed at achieving the true potential of the trade agreement, and of the African continent.

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