COTONOU, (Xinhua) — The establishment of an African free trade zone to increase the volume of trade on the continent will consequently increase Sino-Africa trade relations, a Beninese economist Pascal Komlan said when he spoke to Xinhua over the weekend.
“Even before the establishment of the continental free-trade zone, China had become Africa’s biggest trading partner for almost a decade. Now with the establishment of this platform, Sino-Africa relations will witness exponential growth,” he said, recalling that trade volumes between Africa and China had reached 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, against 10 billion dollars in 2000.
“The free-trade zone is expected to be operational between now and 2017,” he noted.
The economist noted that regional integration is the key to placing African states in the global economy.
“The creation of this continental free-trade zone will be an opportunity for each African country to accelerate its economic transformation agenda. The vision of these countries is not to remain Least Developed Countries, but to build emerging economies,” he said.
However, he explained, the emergency of African economies will not be achieved without the support and expertise of China which views Africa as being key to its economic development strategy.
“Our continent holds over a third of global mineral reserves. The proportion is higher than 70 percent when it comes to some minerals such as iron ore, manganese, platinum and bauxite,” he said, noting that “China equally needs some of these natural resources from Africa for its own economic growth.”
He welcomed the presence of a large number of Chinese companies involved in the construction of road infrastructure, since this will promote African trade.
“The absence of road infrastructure will not only inhibit exploitation of Africa’s mineral potential, but will also hinder intra-Africa trade,” Komlan observed.
For a long time, African countries have made efforts to promote economic integration on the continent through creation of several sub-regional economic organizations such as the East African Community, the Economic Community of West African States and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
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