Africa will target the establishment of a continental free trade area by 2017, said a document issued at the closing of the 18th summit of the African Union (AU) on Tuesday, 31 January.
“The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) should be operationalised by the indicative date of 2017,” said the document.
The AU has made a three-step plan in preparation for the ultimate CFTA target.
The first step is to finalise the tripartite agreement among East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by 2014.
The second is to urge other trade blocs to follow the experience of the tripartite agreement and reach parallel agreement between 2012 and 2014.
The third is to consolidate the tripartite and other regional free trade areas into the CFTA initiative between 2015 and 2016.
“Enhanced intra-African trade and deepened market integration can contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, employment generation, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development and better integration of the continent into the global economy,” said the document.
Africa has seven major regional trade blocs, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), besides the above-mentioned tripartite agreement blocs.