African nations will establish a unified single free trade area by the integration of already existing three African trade blocs to enhance economic cooperation and continental-wide commerce and investment, South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told parliament on Thursday.
The envisaged tripartite trade area with a combined gross domestic product of $1 trillion will be constituted through the incorporation of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) into a single market trade bloc.
"The tripartite that will be launched at a summit in Sharm el Shaik next month will signal that we are on track to create a market of over 600 million people," the South African minister was reported to have said in the parliament.
Davies said the negotiations will be held later in June to materialise a 26-nation bloc out of 54 countries in Africa where the lack of integration of the markets through free trade area has been curtailing growth and sustainable development in the continent.
The prospective plan to create such a single market will gather almost 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of more than $2 trillion in years to come, according to Davis..
South Africa, a former British colony that got rid of the apartheid regime by the beginning of the 1990s, is the second largest economy after Nigeria in Africa.
African nations have a long way to go for the creation of a unified free trade area in the continent as some key trade issues, including those on rules of origin to guard against dumping and tariff concessions, remain unresolved among the regional countries.
The idea of establishing a single market community among African nations had first come to fore when six heads of state from 26 countries signed to incorporate the SADC, COMESA and EAC in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in 2008.