AFRICAN continent is set to fast track continental free trade area early next year to create single market for goods and services.
Head, of Trade Division in the African Union Commission Mr Nadir Merah said in Dar es Salaam yesterday at the threeday-workshop that the initiative focuses at improving Africa's competitiveness in the global economy.
"We need to fast track free trade areas as soon as possible. Towards end of Janu ary next year, we will present to the heads of the states the final paper on the initiative," he said adding that the workshop seeks to discuss ways to improve communications and information systems on business and finance.
He added that,"The intra-African trade is still very low at only 14 per cent compared to 70 per cent in the countries of the European Union," He said all the 55 countries of the AU have started negotiations on the free trade areas citing issues like legal and institutions, customs, trade remedies, roots of origin and trade liberalisation.
Tanzania is effectively represented in the technical group which is discussing intensively the areas of harmonisation for increasing flow of goods and services in the continent. "We want to connect Africa businesses by collecting and analysing data on trade and finance before disseminating them to the business people to boost intra African trade," he noted.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment Prof Adolf Mkenda said business in formation in boosting intra-african trade. Statistics show that Tanzania trade with other African countries remains very low at 3 per cent, thus failing to harness the huge potentials of increasing volume of business in the continent.
"The workshop taking place in Dar es Salaam is timely and will pave way for Tanzania and the rest in the continent to access clear information of trade and finance that will boost business flow," he added.
The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, 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.
The Summit also endorsed the action plan on boosting intra-africantrade (BIAT) which identifies seven clusters: trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.
The CFTA will bring together fifty-five African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than 3.4 trillion US dollars.