One of the agreement’s architects, Carlos Lopes, says it could take at least three years before the final agreement is implemented. Members are now starting to iron out specific details around rules of origin, intellectual property and dispute mechanisms. “[There’s] proof of momentum, proof of ambition and proof of speed,” maintains Carlos Lopes, the former head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. “That said, it’s still a very weak agreement that needs a lot of work.”

African countries are better connected to other continents. Africa’s infrastructure was purpose-built for the colonial export of raw materials – and little has changed since African nations achieved independence beginning in the 1950s. It is often easier for a country such as Nigeria to trade with the US than it is to trade with bordering Benin. Supporters hope AfCFTA will help alleviate some of the challenges to intra-African trade by knocking down tariffs that are among its biggest impediments.

Most of the continent was exploited by more developed countries seeking raw materials to fuel their industries, and little has changed when it comes to what leaves Africa: crude oil, raw minerals and unprocessed agricultural products, including food and cotton.