HARARE,– Africa is not likely to have established a continental free trade area by 2017 and should strengthen existing regional communities to facilitate intra-African trade, a government minister has said.

\n

Stronger regional blocs key to establishing Africa FTA – Bimha

\n

In 2012, African Union (AU) heads of state resolved to establish a continental free trade area (CFTA) by 2017 to enhance industrial development and joint trade on the continent.

\n

However, three years later trade among African countries still remains depressed.

\n

Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha who was recently in Ethiopia for an AU summit on Thursday told The Source that the priority was to integrate three of the main trading blocs on the continent, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) whose member countries often belong to one or two coalitions.

\n

“The plans of setting up the CFTA are still very much alive but the 2017 target was very ambitious,” said Bimha.

\n

“The thinking now is that we strengthen the regional communities in terms of their free trade areas and more importantly if we can achieve strides in the Tripartite Free Trade Area then we will be closer to continental integration,” he said.

\n

Bimha said at the heart of the process was the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Initiative (TFTA) which would be launched in Cairo, Egypt in May.

\n

The TFTA covers 26 countries, with a combined population of 530 million (57 percent of Africa’s population) and a total GDP of $630 billion (53 percent of Africa’s total GDP). – The Source