Egypt will be taking part next February in a new round of negotiations to create Africa’s largest free-trade zone, covering 26 countries in an area from Cape Town to Cairo, an Egyptian official said Thursday.
Sayed El-Bous, adviser to Egyptian minister of trade, told reporters Thursday that establishing an African free-trade zone aims to boost the volume of intra-trade as well as joint investments between the 26 countries in the continent. It shall serve the African countries’ efforts to achieve economic development.
The agreement to merge Africa’s three giant economic blocks signed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and leaders from 20 African states in Cairo in June 2015 represents a cornerstone for the success of the African free-trade zone talks, he added.
Last June, Sisi and African leaders pledged to create a free-trade zone across half of the continent by 2017, a bold commitment to dismantle long-standing hurdles to investment in the fast-growing but fragmented region. The zone aims to ease the movement of goods across member countries which represent more than half the continent’s GDP.
The three existing zones are the East African Community (EAC), created in 2000; the Southern African Development Community (Sadc); founded in 1980; and an overlapping Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) that also took shape in the 1980s.