Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). (Photo courtesy of the African Union)
The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, said the rate of intra-African trade represents only 18 percent, compared to 70 percent among Europe's countries.
The AfCFTA, a continental body aiming to merge the 54 African countries in one market, is aiming to double the trade rate among African countries in the upcoming 15 years, Mene told Al-Ahram newspaper in an interview in Cairo published on Tuesday.
The AfCFTA’s secretary-general added that Egypt is “the most important country in the region and one of the major leaders in Africa,” underscoring its capabilities to support the continent in several fields.
"Egypt's experience in building the New Administrative Capital and sustainable smart cities will be a main supporter in infrastructure work in the African continent, in addition to tapping into Egyptian expertise in the field of arbitration to settle investments and trade disputes," he explained.
Mene expressed his appreciation for Egypt's keenness to launch the agreement during its chairmanship of the African Union in 2019.
The AfCFTA, first signed in 2018, was launched officially earlier this month, following months of delays owing to the coronavirus pandemic, marking the biggest trade deal in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in 1994.
Data from the World Bank shows that the AfCFTA agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world, measured by the number of countries participating.
It is expected to connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined GDP valued at US$3.4 trillion. Also, It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty,
Egypt has repeatedly pledged support to the trade bloc. On Sunday, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said the agreement represents a promising start to achieve continental integration as well as the desired economic and trade integration for African states.