Fourteen Southern African countries will formally launch a free trade zone at a summit on Saturday, South Africa said on Tuesday, hoping to boost the region's economic muscle.
The Free Trade Area (FTA) will exempt 85 percent of trade from tariffs and the aim is to fully liberalise by 2012.
South African Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said while that was a realistic target, greater efforts were needed to develop and integrate the region.
"The launch of the FTA is not an end in itself but a beginning of a process we need to embark on to build both productive and trade capacity, improve competitiveness of our industries...," Mpahlwa said in a statement.
The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) needed to focus more on strengthening its agricultural industries and improving infrastructure.
"The lack of infrastructure is a major barrier to regional integration and development," the minister said.
SADC first mooted the idea of a free-trade zone in 1996 but progress has been slow and some economies continue to lag behind in developing infrastructure and policies crucial for integration.
Last Mod: 13 Ağustos 2008, 17:13