This month, African countries will finalise a 26-nation free trade bloc aimed at opening up business on the continent by 2017, a senior South African minister told Reuters on Wednesday.
Trade barriers across the continent has curtailed its growth prospects by driving up the cost of doing business. Lifting charges like export and import fees could promote new markets and boost profits.
Business Report reported that Deputy Trade and Industry Minister, Mzwandile Masina, said South Africa was close to finalising key trade agreements with the rest of the continent, which would be realised within the next five years.
Masina said negotiations with the rest of the continent were at an advanced stage, and that the agreements could be realised before the 2063 African Union (AU) deadline for free trade in the continent.
"We want to remove many of the barriers that stifle economic growth in Africa," Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town.
The agreement between finance ministers from the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community will be finalised in Cairo next Wednesday, he said, adding South Africa was "optimistic" it would be in place by 2017.
The government said last month official negotiations would be launched in June to eventually establish a continental free trade area embracing the entire continent of 54 countries, opening up a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of more than $2 trillion. (Reporting by Peroshni Govender; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa)