African states plan free trade area by 2016

Twenty six African states, including Ghana, are working towards the removal of trade barriers for a single trade zone for the continent by 2016.
A final meeting to approve the Africa Free Trade Zone (AFTZ) treaty is scheduled for June, after which citizens of member states will be able to trade freely and travel to these member countries without a visa.
Mr Ahmed Haggag, a former Assistant Secretary General, Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) revealed this to journalists at the 45th training course for Young African Journalists in Cairo, Egypt.
The training course, under the auspices of the Union of African Journalists (UAJ), offers young journalists an opportunity to share ideas and help find solutions to challenges facing Africa.
Mr Haggag said the treaty would also allow citizens of the 26 African states to work freely in any of the member states.
He noted that the physical borders erected by colonial masters were major causes of the continent’s dwindling economic fortunes and was happy Africa’s dream of a single free trade zone would materialise next year “hopefully”.
“If we consider ourselves as Africans, we should be able to trade among ourselves irrespective of the physical borders and I’m happy next year, Ghanaians can bring their cocoa and other local products to Egypt without any restrictions,” Mr Haggag stated.
Free trade
He expressed optimism that free trade among African states could address high unemployment rate on the continent and reposition Africa as an economic giant.
Mr Haggag also believed the treaty would bring to end, issues of ill-treatment of Africans working in member states.
He said the future looked bright for the continent and urged the “AU Border Committee” to work towards the removal of artificial borders to further facilitate trade and social cohesion for true African unity.
Mr Haggag expressed concern about the mad rush for agricultural lands on the continent by Europeans and called on African heads of state to address the “abnormality”.
A single free trade zone spanning the length of the continent has been a long-term dream, but some African heads of state remain unsure of its benefits.
The recent signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union also threatened Africa’s economic integration. But trading blocks on the continent are optimistic AFTZ, consisting of 26 countries with a GDP of an estimated $624bn (£382.9bn), would ease access to markets.

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