BUTALEJA, Uganda, Feb. 16 (Xinhua)-- Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has called for the speedy formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) to bolster trade and growth in the continent.
Speaking to a contingent of military personnel from the East African Community block at Butaleja district on Thursday, Museveni said that a continental free trade zone would facilitate trade in the region.
"A large part of Africa was colonized and fractured by colonialists. I salute the current breed of leaders in Africa because they are united. The most important agenda at the moment is to form a continental customs block. We talked about it in the previous meeting and worked out modalities to achieve the goal," Museveni said.
The decision to form the CFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Head of States and Government of the African Union (AU).
The CFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. This, according to AU, will pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.
"Africa is a rich continent in both natural and labor resources. The only missing link is the free trade zone. Since we adopted this as an agenda in last year's meeting in Addis Ababa, I'm content it's an effort about to reach fruition," Museveni said.
With a total of 54 countries under the AU umbrella body in the continent and a population of over 1 billion people, the CFTA is expected to enhance Africa's internal and external trade performances.
Fred Muhumuza, an economist of the Makerere University, said that the main benefit in establishing the CFTA would be the elimination of import duties and non-tariff barriers that have impeded free trade in Africa.
"Africa at present has many regional customs blocks, but all these permit free trade with a given customs region. Having a continental customs block will open up the continent to free trade and a lot of opportunities. How the more powerful economies in the continent respond to this call is vital to its formation process," Muhumuza said.