Africa, largely ignored in a U.S.-China trade war that could roil economies worldwide, is quietly piecing together the world’s largest free-trade zone.
The African Continental Free Trade Area comes into force on paper on Thursday after the required 22 countries ratified the deal a month ago. Once it’s passed by all 55 nations recognized as part of the African Union, it would cover a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.
The potential benefits are obvious, if the usual hurdles of nationalism and protectionism don’t yet stand in the way.
The deal would help the continent move away from mainly exporting commodities to build manufacturing capacity and industrialize, said Jakkie Cilliers, head of African Futures and Innovation at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. Boosting intra-regional trade would spur the construction of roads and railways, reducing the infrastructure gap in Africa, he said…..more