The creation of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), one of the landmark declarations adopted by African leaders to bolster trade by 2017, will depend on the progress made by African regional blocs over the next year, a senior African Union (AU) official said Wednesday.
AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Fatima Acyl said establishing a Free Trade Area (FTA) within the Eastern and Southern Africa region by 2014 would form a key step towards the creation of an Africa-wide Trade Area that will lift trade barriers and allow free movement of people and goods.
“We must establish an FTA of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) within the deadline of 2014. We will then consolidate this progress by working with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs),” Acyl told PANA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ahead of this weekend’s AU Summit.
The three organisations, which together represent 26 out of the 54 African states, are seeking the creation of their own Free Trade Zone, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$624 billion.
They plan to meet 26 January in the Ethiopian capital, and their discussions are expected to be included in the declarations to be adopted at the 20th Summit.
Experts say the creation of such a trade area will level the field for countries that belong to the different RECs to obtain varied trade benefits and will also ease the burden of countries paying membership contributions to various international or regional organisations with competing interests.
The AU is due to convene a ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the Executive Council meeting, bringing together foreign ministers of the 54 AU member states, to discuss the acceleration of the planned creation of the CFTA.
African leaders contend that for the continent to effectively battle poverty, it has to use trade as a means of creating jobs, reducing heavy dependence on foreign aid and radically improving Africa’s share of the global trade.