Countries that have ratified the AfCFTA agreement appear to have agreed on rules of origin for more than 81% of tariff items. Eritrea was not part of the original agreement due to the ongoing state of war, but the 2018 Peace Agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended the conflict and the obstacle to Eritrea`s participation in the free trade agreement.      The unrecognized state of Somaliland did not participate in the discussions on the creation of the agreement. On 21 July 2018, five other countries signed the agreement, including South Africa. At the time, the Nigerian government stressed that its non-participation was a delay and not a withdrawal, and promised to sign the agreement soon.  As the Minister of Foreign Affairs had previously pointed out, the Nigerian government intended to continue to consult with local companies to ensure that the private sector accepted the agreement.  As of April 2021, 36 African countries had ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, and 54 of the 55 African countries had signed the agreement, with only Eritrea not signed. Algeria and Somalia should be the next countries to deposit their instruments of ratification. Countries that have already ratified the agreement include Angola, Côte d`Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The first shipment of goods under the AfCFTA took place in early January 2021, and most signatories submitted their proposals for rules of origin. Nigeria was one of the last countries to sign the agreement.
With 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has about the population of the second and third most populous countries, Ethiopia and Egypt, combined, each with about 98 million people. With a nominal GDP of $376 billion, or about 17% of Africa`s GDP, it is just ahead of South Africa, which accounts for 16% of the African economy. Given that Nigeria is such an important country in terms of population and economy, its absence when the agreement was first signed was particularly striking. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed this in a commentary on July 12, 2018, commenting: „The continent is waiting for Nigeria and South Africa. By negotiating with each other, we are able to conserve more resources on the continent. South Africa then signed the agreement.  Most AU member states have signed the agreement. Benin, Botswana, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Zambia did not initially sign the agreement.
 Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was particularly reluctant to join when it hurt Nigerian entrepreneurship and industry.  On July 7, 2019, Nigeria and Benin committed to sign African free trade through ACFTA at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union; Eritrea remains the only country among the 55 member States of the African Union that has not signed the agreement.    The AfCFTA Secretariat will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the agreement and will be an autonomous body within the AU system. Although it has an independent legal personality, it will work closely with the AU Commission and will receive its budget from the AU. The Council of Ministers responsible for Trade decides on the seat of the head office, structure, role and responsibilities.  The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union is the supreme decision-making body. It is likely that it will meet at AU summits.  The Council of Trade Ministers monitors strategic trade policy and ensures the effective implementation and enforcement of the AfCFTA Agreement.  The new market created under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is estimated at 1.3 billion people in Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. This could lift up to 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. The AfCFTA is a single market agreement that will stretch from Egypt to South Africa, from Senegal to Djibouti and will include 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.6 trillion.
Africa has a young population and a growing middle class whose purchasing power is increasing. Investors will be able to do business with a single set of trade and investment rules across the African continent. Investors will also be able to take advantage of economies of scale and avoid the challenges of market fragmentation. While COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the AU`s economic fate, the fact that economic integration is progressing under the AfCFTA and that international organizations are providing support is likely to boost investor confidence in the region`s long-term prospects. The African Continental Free Trade Area only entered into force when 22 of the signatory countries ratified the agreement, which happened in April 2019, when The Gambia became the 22nd country to ratify it.   As of August 2020, there were 54 signatories, at least 30 of whom had ratified their instruments of ratification and deposited 28.    The three countries that have ratified their ratifications but have not yet deposited them would be Cameroon, Angola and Somalia, although Morocco has also been ratified.   The Bank predicts that the agreement could help lift an additional 30 million people out of extreme poverty and 68 million people out of moderate poverty. Sierra Leone, Namibia, Lesotho, Burundi and South Africa signed the AfCFTA at the 31st African Union Summit in Nouakchott.  As of July 2019, 54 states had signed the agreement.
 In March 2018, on the 10th. signed three separate agreements at the African Union Extraordinary Meeting on the AfCFTA: the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the Kigali Declaration; and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons. The Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons aims to establish a visa-free zone in the AfCFTA countries and to support the creation of the African Union passport.  At the Kigali Summit on March 21, 2018, 44 countries signed the AfCFTA, 47 signed the Kigali Declaration and 30 signed the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons. Although it was a success, there were two notable resistances: Nigeria and South Africa, Africa`s two largest economies.    The AfCFTA Secretariat, an autonomous body within the African Union based in Accra, Ghana, headed by Secretary-General Wamkele Mene, is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Agreement. In comparison, 54 AU member states (Eritrea is the only recalcitrant) are parties to the trade agreement, and ratifications are progressing at an impressive pace. Trade under the agreement began on 1 January 2021, after the impact of Covid-19 was delayed by a sixth month.
As the Nigerian government continued to consult with local business groups in the second half of 2018, one of the main concerns was whether the agreement adequately prevented anti-competitive practices such as dumping.  As 2018 drew to a close, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the delay was „regrettable,“ pointing to the lack of trade in goods between African countries, the difficulties of traveling from one African country to another, and the colonial legacy that these constraints on Africa`s growth represented.  The Government Steering Committee responsible for the consultation process is expected to publish its report on the agreement in January 2019.  After the Kigali summit, more signatures were added to the AfCFTA. .