South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday lent his support to a pan-Africa free-trade area, which he said could be worth as much as $2.6 trillion.
Zuma said the integration of free-trade zones in southern and eastern Africa could form the basis of a common market that would help spur growth.
The “Africa-wide Free Trade Agreement,” he said, “could create a single market of $2.6 trillion and a population of over one billion people.”
He said: “This market scale could launch a sizeable part of the continent onto a new developmental trajectory.”
Africa’s economies have been growing apace in recent years, thanks to vast natural resources, increased foreign investment and booming domestic markets.
“Africa’s rise over the past decade has been very real,” said Zuma. “The size of the African economy has more than tripled since 2000.”
But trade between African nations remains beset by protectionism, red tape and corruption.
A continental free-trade area has long been mooted, but concrete progress has been slow.