Community aid for trade is a well-established area of work in EU development cooperation at continental, regional and national level. With a record level of €13.5 billion in 2016, the EU and its Member States remain the world leaders in Aid for Trade (32%). Africa continued to have the largest number of them. The programme targets themes related to the AfCFTA, such as stakeholder participation, industrialisation, special economic zones, green economy or e-commerce. In a rapidly changing Africa, a trade agreement reflecting current socio-economic realities is needed to create a solid foundation for economic integration across the continent. The World Bank`s report, The African Continental Free Trade Area: Economic and Distributional Effects, aims to help policymakers implement measures that can maximize the potential benefits of the agreement while minimizing risks. Creating a continent-wide market requires firm efforts to reduce all trade costs. The European Union and its Member States are the African Union`s main partners in this process and have supported the AfCFTA process from the beginning. The AU is coordinating the ongoing free trade negotiations and the transition to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). As of July 2019, 54 of the 55 African Union states had signed the agreement, with Eritrea being the only country not to sign the agreement. Of these Member States, 27 have deposited their instruments of ratification.
  Julia Vnukova advises in the Trade and Regional Integration Unit (ETIRI) of the World Bank. Based on more than ten years of experience, Yulia`s current work focuses on trade policy and regional integration, with a focus on macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis of trade, trade and sectoral competitiveness, global value chains and private sector development in emerging countries in Europe, in Asia and Africa. Roberto Echandi is a lead private sector specialist at ETIRI. It focuses on research and policy advice on issues related to cross-border trade in services, negotiation, implementation and maximisation of the potential benefits of deep integration trade agreements and the AfCFTA negotiation and implementation process. The AfCFTA is a framework agreement covering trade in goods and services, including the following protocols: trade in goods, trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition policy, investment and dispute settlement. What complicates the negotiations is that Africa was already divided into eight separate free trade areas and/or customs unions, with different rules. [Note 1] These regional forums will continue to exist; The African Continental Free Trade Agreement aims, first, to remove barriers to trade between the various pillars of the African Economic Community and, finally, to use these regional organizations as building blocks of the ultimate goal of an Africa-wide customs union.     With the global economy in turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the creation of the huge afCFTA regional market is a great opportunity to help African countries diversify their exports, accelerate growth and attract foreign direct investment. . . .