Leaders will sit down in South Africa this month to finalize plans for a new free trade area for Africa by 2017 that could reap billions of dollars in trade for the continent.
The plan is to create the zone by uniting the East Africa Community, SADC and COMESA trade areas to free up the flow of trade across the continent.
The summit, organized by the African Union in Johannesburg will be held on June 12, Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s Minister of Planning, Performance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, said on Tuesday ahead of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.
“We have the support of WEF and if everyone is happy, we will push for this new trade area by 2017,” said Radebe.
When asked about the ability of the continent to make the 2017 deadline, Radebe said: “Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have to start somewhere.”
Radebe argues that his government has spent 847 billion rand on infrastructure from the Maputo Development Corridor to the building of a new border post at Beitbridge at the crossing to Zimbabwe. He said the infrastructure is in place to handle a fresh flow of trade.
*Chris Bishop is Managing Editor of Forbes Africa and is attending the World Economic Forum on Africa 2015, which takes place in Cape Town, 3-5 June.