AFRICA’S LARGEST FREE TRADE AREA TO BE LAUNCHED IN EGYPT IN DECEMBER

By O’Brien Kimani

NAIROBI, Nov 25- Africa’s largest free trade area is set to be launched in Egypt next month during a summit of heads of State and government to be held in Cairo.

The free trade area brings together three existing free trade areas — the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — to boost intra-regional trade, increase foreign investment and promote the development of cross-regional infrastructure.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Principal Secretary, Karanja Kibicho, said here Monday that the new trading area is expected to deepen trade between Kenya and other African countries.

The tripartite free trade area ,also known as the Grand Free Trade Area, will have a combined population of 625 million people and gross domestic product (GDP) of 1.2 trillion US dollars. It will account for half of the membership of the African Union (AU) and 58 per cent of the continent’s GDP and it is expected to be the launching pad for the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area in 2017.

Addressing a COMESA forum on women entrepreneurs, Kibicho urged women in the region to take advantage of the expanded market offered by the new trading bloc to venture into business.

So far, the EAC, SADC and COMESA have made progress in negotiations on trade in goods with talks ongoing on trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy.

SOURCE: KBC