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African free trade area on the horizon

Twenty-six eastern and southern African nations are making progress toward agreeing on a free trade area that will create a market with nearly 600-million people and combined gross domestic product of $1-trillion, President Jacob Zuma said.

"This market scale could launch a sizeable part of the continent onto a new developmental trajectory," Zuma told a conference hosted by Bloomberg in Johannesburg on Monday. "The free trade area will form the basis for an Africa-wide free trade agreement, which could create a single market of $2.6-trillion and a population of over 1-billion people."

South Africa is focusing on building ties with the rest of the continent amid sluggish demand for its exports from its traditional European trading partners. The International Monetary Fund expects sub-Saharan Africa's economy to grow 6.1% this year.

"There remains ongoing uncertainty in the global economy, with the eurozone in particular continuing to struggle," Zuma said.

"Africa's rise over the past decade has been very real. The size of the African economy has more than tripled since 2000. This growth is predicted to continue in the foreseeable future, giving rise to a new Africa paradigm: Africa as the new growth frontier."

South Africa was the biggest source of foreign direct investment into the rest of Africa in 2012, participating in projects that created more than 45 000 jobs, according to the president.

"Our other partners on the continent such as Nigeria, Kenya and increasingly Angola, are also taking up the cause of investing on the African continent," he said. "Intra-Africa investments should define the new Africa paradigm." – Bloomberg

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