NAIROBI, The creation of the biggest trading bloc in Africa is inching closer to reality after the member states agreed on the draft text of the agreement to establish the bloc.

The bloc, the Tripartite Free Trade Area, which brings together 19 countries, will deepen intra-Africa trade from the current 19 per cent, said Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (Minister), Amina Mohammed, when she addressed a meeting here Monday for regional countries seeking to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The aim of the bloc is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movements of business persons and investments to accelerate the establishment of continental free trade which will encompass all the 54 African countries to create a Continental Free Trade Area in Africa.

The trading bloc, which is a project of the African Union (AU), envisages making Africa a single trading bloc with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 340 trillion shillings (about 3.3 trillion US dollars).

Amina said the planned Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) would boost Africa’s global trade from the current four per cent to 10 per cent in the long term. The CFTA is expected to be launched by an indicative date of 2017.

The WTO meeting here this week brings together officials from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Comoros, which are all seeking to join the World Trade Organization. Kenya, a WTO member since 1995, has been appointed to help the four African countries on the processes they need to embark upon in order to join the WTO.