PRETORIA, Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies, is in Niger where he will participate in the 4th African Union (AU) Ministers of Trade Meeting, which gets underway today.

Progress made in the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations will be among the issues that the two-day Ministerial meeting will consider, which gets underway in Niger’s capital Niamey.

Friday’s meeting in the West African country was preceded by the 8th CFTA Negotiating Forum and a meeting of Senior Trade Officials.

The CFTA negotiations were launched during the 25th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on 15 June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The decision of the summit constitutes an attempt to fast�track the establishment of the African Economic Community (AEC) and to harness the benefits of an integrated and fast-growing African market of more than one billion people.

The aim of the AEC is to promote economic, social and cultural development as well as African economic integration in order to increase self-sufficiency and endogenous development, and create a framework for development, mobilisation of human resources and material.

Meanwhile, the third meeting of the AU Ministers of Trade held in Niamey, Niger, in June 2017 adopted the Modalities for Tariff Negotiations and the Modalities for Trade in Services Negotiations.

Earlier, Minister Davies said this will facilitate the exchange of tariff and services offers, as well as the finalisation of the CFTA Agreement. The Minister also emphasised the importance of enhancing intra-Africa trade and investment, and regional economic integration through the CFTA.

Minister Davies reiterated that South Africa is committed to a coordinated strategy that will boost intra-Africa trade and build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of over 1 billion people and approximately US$2.6 trillion.

President of Niger Issoufou Mahamadou was mandated, during the 28th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government, to champion the process of the CFTA negotiations.