An agreement to establish a new African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is likely to be signed by March 2018, according to a minister.
Carlos Ahenkorah, Ghana's deputy minister of trade and industry, has confirmed that African leaders are expecting to sign the CFTA deal by the end of March at the latest, allowing the pact to come into effect in 2020, reports JoyBusiness.
Negotiations over the CFTA have been ongoing for a number of years, with the aim of establishing a free trade area involving 54 African nations. The deal will remove key trade barriers and tariffs on the continent to promote the industrialization of export-oriented goods.
Introducing freer trade and more harmonized markets could also help to stimulate foreign direct investment, as overseas businesses would be less likely to have to deal with unnecessary paperwork, long delays at borders and inconsistent regulations.
Mr Ahenkorah said: "We are looking at a situation that, when the CFTA comes into being, we are going to have about 1.3 billion market space for people to be able to showcase their products and trade between other African countries."
At present, intracontinental trade makes up only around 15 per cent of the total value of African trade - substantially lower than the equivalent for most other regional blocs, despite the fact that the 54 CFTA nations boast a total population of more than one billion and a combined GDP exceeding $3.4 trillion (€2.79 trillion).
According to Mr Ahenkorah, a 2020 implementation of CFTA is likely to mean that the economic goals of the project are achieved by around 2063.