Delegates from 26 countries of three regional African economic blocs on Friday began a two-day meeting here to spearhead the African Free Trade Area (FTA).
The regional bodies are the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
At the launch of the meeting, Burundian Second Vice-President Gervais Rufyikiri said the FTA will minimize administrative burdens of member states that participate in many regional economic organizations.
"We're here as regional leaders to spearhead the process of greater continental economic integration towards the establishment of a Grand Africa Economic Community," said Rufyikiri.
He said that governments in the three regional economic blocs are committed to promote collaboration, networking, to harmonize strategies and policies and to share information in order to reach an African Free Trade Area by 2017 as instructed by the African Union summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Jan. 23-30, 2012.
The Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the African Union, Fatima Acyl, who attended the meeting, urged governments to include the private sector in the process of reaching the African Free Trade Area. "The inclusion of the private sector in negotiations for the establishment of an effective Free Trade Area on the African continent is crucial," said Acyl.
She said the preparation phase of the continental FTA negotiations requires the availability of financial resources for trade negotiations.
"Member states must take steps in mobilizing their own domestic resources instead of relying on partners' funding," said Acyl.