A spokesperson for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has said he hopes the implementation of the deal will be able to stay close to the original deadline, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary-general Wamkele Mene told Bloomberg he does not think anyone could have anticipated the impact of the virus in terms of disruption to the global economy.
However, he said he remains confident that the target for first commerce of July 1st 2020 can still be met.
"You know, I think we will have to find a way. We're going to have to find a way," Mr Mene commented.
In order to successfully meet the deadline for the trade of goods and services to begin, new rules on tariffs and all other agreements must be rubber-stamped prior to a summit still scheduled to be held in May.
If this is not the case, discussions may have to begin to apply tariff preferences retrospectively.
Mr Mene said the rules of origin regulations are "90 per cent ready", although talks on cars, sugar and cotton remain ongoing.
Had the coronavirus outbreak not happened, the negotiations could have been concluded as early as May, he added.
The AfCFTA came into force last year and is billed as potentially the world's biggest free trade zone since the World Trade Organisation was set up in 1994, with the International Monetary Fund calling it an "economic game changer".
It will start by cutting tariffs for products traded between countries within the bloc before moving on to tackle levies in other areas.
However, this remains dependent on the 54 nations involved being able to agree on a host of trade issues - including the establishment of a dispute settlement mechanism - in less than four months' time, all while the world battles COVID-19.