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The largest free trade area in the world, both by area and by population, will formally come into effect on May 30, now that Gambia has become the 22nd country to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA.

Expand chart
Adapted from World Economic Forum; Map: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Africa has 1.2 billion people — more than double the EU or NAFTA. Almost every African country has signed the treaty; the one big exception is Nigeria. AfCFTA came together in record time, after first being proposed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in March 2018. As a result, a lot of the implementation details are a bit fuzzy.

  • "What’s been really impressive is how quickly they’ve agreed to and then ratified the deal," says Grant Harris, the CEO of Harris Africa Partners. "Now the real world begins in terms of how issues are worked through in practice."

Reality check: Africa's trade problems won't be solved overnight. The continent needs some $50 billion per year in infrastructure investment, and truckers are still likely to spend hours or days idling at international borders.

  • By the numbers: The World Bank's Paul Brenton calculated in 2012 that passenger traffic between Brazzaville and Kinshasa — on opposite sides of the Congo River — was just 20% of the amount of traffic between East and West Berlin before the wall came down.

Why it matters: Almost every African country exports more outside the continent than it does within it. African supply chains are extremely weak, and the amount of prosperity that could be generated by strengthening them is enormous. AfCFTA, on its own, is not sufficient to create a booming market in intra-African trade. Still, it's an extremely important milestone on the way there.

Go deeper

10 mins ago - Sports

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy causes stir with doping comments

Bronze medallist Britain's Luke Greenbank, gold medallist Russia's Evgeny Rylov and silver medallist USA's Ryan Murphy pose with their medals after the final of the men's 200m backstroke. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP via Getty Images

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy raised questions about the presence of doping in swimming following a second-place finish in the men's 200-meter backstroke on Thursday.

Driving the news: Murphy, who won gold in the 200-meter backstroke race in Rio, said following his race: "At the end of the day, I do believe there’s doping in swimming. That is what it is."

Key inflation measure grew slower than expected in June

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The price of goods and services rose 0.4% in June, slower than the 0.5% growth during May, according to the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index released Friday morning. The June reading was lower than the consensus expectation for 0.6% growth.

Why it matters: The core PCE is the inflation measure the Federal Reserve watches most closely. June's reading is the second month in a row of decelerated price growth, giving the Fed breathing room to design a pullback strategy from its emergency market support.

2 hours ago - Health

Internal CDC presentation warns: "The war has changed"

Graphic: CDC via The Washington Post

Unpublished research indicates that the Delta variant causes more severe illness and spreads as easily as chickenpox, and that vaccinated people may transmit the strain as easily as those who are unvaccinated, according to an internal CDC presentation obtained by WashPost.

Why it matters: The data played a key role in the CDC's decision to tell vaccinated people to resume masking indoors, with the presentation calling on health officials to "acknowledge the war has changed," The Post reports.