A senior official of the African Union (AU) has underlined the need for AU member states to act quickly to move forward the agenda of realizing continental free trade (CFTA) in Africa.
Fatima Haram Acyl, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, made the remark on Monday during the opening of the First Ministerial Meeting of the Specialized Technical Committee on Trade, Industry and Minerals at the headquarters of the pan-African bloc in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.
The two-day meeting, which was preceded by session of experts, has been organized under the theme, "Promoting regional integration through trade and inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Africa."
Recalling that the AU summit in June 2015 launched the CFTA negotiations in commitment to the realization of CFTA by 2017, the AU Commissioner called for speedy action to ensure the ambitious agenda of the continent on CFTA.
"We have an ambitious agenda before us. It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure the effective delivery of this target. We should therefore be prepared to provide the necessary guidance bearing in mind the overall goal of One Africa, One Market, in line with the aim and objectives of the Abuja Treaty," she said.
"As a result of the foregoing, we can agree that it's time for us to act and act quickly. It's time to move forward our Agenda," she added.
In his statement made through a representative, Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), noted that the realization of African CFTA would be a major step forward for economic integration via boosting intra-African trade.
CFTA in goods alone would lead to an increase in intra-African trade of around 55 billion U.S. dollars or 60 percent of its current level, said Hamdok.
"If this is complemented by Africa taking trade facilitation measures that reduce trade costs by half, these increases would be even greater," he said.
Trade in services is also included in the negotiations for the CTFA, he said, Africa's service sector accounted for around 1.2 trillion dollars of Africa's gross domestic product in 2014.
If Africa reduces barriers to trade services between its countries, it could increase integration of economies through higher cross-border flows of services within the continent, he noted.
Jean Bakole, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Regional Director, has called for appropriate policies, including that of industrial, to foster regional integration and intra-Africa trade and boost infrastructure.
The ministers are expected to deliberate on issues related to the CFTA and ongoing negotiations on it that they report on the progress on the CFTA at coming AU summit in July Kigali, Rwanda.