ACCRA, The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) has become an extremely important strategy for development across the regions of the world because of increasing globalization and integration, says Ghana's Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kyeremanteng.

He was speaking at the opening of the two-day 2017 African Prosperity Conference, organized by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry and supported by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) here Tuesday.

The conference is being hosted by the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the theme, The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) -- Exploring Possibilities for Business Engagement across Africa.

The 18th AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2012 adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by an indicative date of 2017 to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus, pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

It is also to expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and co-ordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes and instruments across Africa in general, as well as resolving the challenges of multiple and over-lapping memberships to expedite the regional and continental integration processes.

The Minister said trade had the potential of ensuring economic growth and lifting millions of people out of poverty. Major continents of the world were finding it prudent to pool resources and markets in order to become more competitive and reap the benefits of integration.

He said African integration through CFTA had become more imminent and critical now than ever before, because of the proposition and the conceptualisation of action plans to implement a number of mega trade deals and agreement like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

He said the CFTA was expected to make important contributions to a successful market integration and further contribute towards economic growth, development and prosperity of the participating nations. As Africans, we must stand united to leverage the mutual benefits from creating the ambitious CFTA, he added.

The CFTA will facilitate the exploitation of economies of scale; help move factors of production across borders; increase rate of diversification and transformation of our economics, reduce venerability of external shocks and boost employment opportunities."

The AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga, said the continent had advanced in the areas of negotiations for a continental FTA and it was expected to be finalised by the close of the year. With the CFTA, Africa was creating a borderless continent to promote open skies for business growth and development, he added.

He said the CFTA also had the prospect of changing Africans' economic development and changing the continent's economic advantage with the world. It would enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The CFTA will be a key driver for Africa to realize the structural transformation and industrialization of Africa as envisaged in the AU's Agenda 2063, as well as to promote implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


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