African free trade area named AU's major task in 2017
Adopting African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) has been named a major task for the African Union (AU) this year as the 30th session of its Executive Council opened on Wednesday.
In her remarks at the opening of the meeting, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission, called for member countries' commitment to meeting the first target in Agenda 2063 of commencing the CFTA by end of 2017.
She underlines the need "to do what needs to be done on the free movement of persons, so that we unlock opportunities for intra-African trade, studies, business and tourism."
In her remarks at the opening of the 33rd session of the AU Permanent Representatives Committee on Sunday, Dlamini-Zuma said the AU's major task this year was to adopt the CFTA.
"This, along with our industrialization programme, the Commodities Strategy, and work on the blue oceans economy, are critical to resolving the African paradox of a continent with virtually every natural resource at its disposal, and yet its people are poor and it is marginal to global production," she said.
The Executive Council meeting opened in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa in the framework of the 28th AU summit.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Fatima Haram Acyl, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, said the African CFTA would bring together the 54 African countries, which she said are fragmented markets.
She said it would ease movement of goods and people across the continent and help Africa attract huge amounts of investment.
"Africa needs to focus on really its own priority, its own market, its own people, the employment of people, the prosperity of this continent," said Acyl.
The CFTA agenda of the pan-African bloc will bring together 54 countries with a combined population of more than 1 billion people and a GDP of more than 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars, according to the AU.
The AU in 2012 decided to establish the African CFTA by 2017, with a main objective of creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, thus paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union.
Negotiations were launched in June 2015 in commitment to the realization of CFTA by this year.
It is expected to resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
The CFTA will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general, says AU.
It is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.