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Comesa, SADC to form Africa’s largest free trade zone

SADCTWO of the biggest blocs in Africa, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), will launch a free trade zone in December as the continent moves towards integration, Comesa has said.

The proposed FTA, to be called the Grand Free Trade Area, will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and will form the basis for the establishment of the Africa-wide Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017.

The GFTA, which will bring together blocs with a combined population of 625 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1.2 trillion, will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58 percent of the continent’s GDP

A meeting of ministers in Bujumbura, Burundi at the weekend agreed that a summit of heads of state and government to be held in Egypt in December would launch the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA), Comesa said in a press release after the assembly.

Chairperson of the ministerial meeting, Chiratidzo Mabuwa, Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of industry and commerce, said the agreement to launch the GFTA was a milestone in regional and continental integration.

“Africa has now joined the league of emerging economies and the grand FTA will play a pivotal and catalytic role in the transformation of the continent,” she said.

“We have made significant progress in negotiations on trade in goods, and we now need to expedite negotiations on trade-related areas, including trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy to ensure equity, among all citizens of the wider region.”

Zimbabwe’s central bank figures show the country registered a meagre $67 million in foreign direct investment in the first half of 2014, down from $165 million over the same period last year. – The Source