Ministers in charge of trade from across the African continent over the weekend approved the draft African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement ahead of its signing later this month by heads of state.
The ministers convened on Thursday last week to review the draft document.
After reviewing the 250-page draft agreement, the ministers agreed that it factors in concerns and inputs of member states expressed during the negotiation phase.
The draft agreement will then be submitted to ministers of justice from across the continent for further review to ensure the legal consistency.
The ministers of justice will then submit it to ministers of foreign affairs prior to the signing on March 21.
The agreement has been tailored to ensure that it is not in contravention of any international trade rules as well as is compatible to existing trade agreements in the 8 regional economic zones.
Experts say that the agreement will, among other things, facilitate the establishment of continental customs union.
“We have to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources,” the Minister for Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshaka said.
With 54 member states and over 1 billion citizens, the agreement could significantly increase intra-Africa trade beyond the current 14 per cent.
The agreement, if implemented, could create the largest free-trade area in the world.
Heads of state and government from the African continent are expected to meet on September 21 to sign the agreement
The Continental Free Trade Area is a continental geographic zone where goods and services are supposed to move with no restrictions among member states.
Once established, there shall be no administrative barriers at any country’s borders in regards to movement of goods and services.
The CFTA aims to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among member states covering trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.
Through the agreement, countries will create a single market that will spur industrialisation, economic diversification and trade.