Africa free trade zone to be operational by 2018 By LINLEY BIGNOUX in Port Louis and Agencies | Sunday, May 27   2012 at  18:34

AU Commission chairman Jean Ping. AFRICA REVIEW | FILE 

Africa's free trade zone is expected to be operational by the end of 2017, a senior African Union official said.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Jean Ping said in Nairobi that this will be achieved through the merger of all African regional trade blocks.

"The heads of the states and government have committed to the realisation of a continent wide free trade zone which is expected to operational by the end of 2017," Mr Ping said in a speech read on his behalf by the AU Commission Chairperson Special Representative to Somalia Boubacar Diarra during the commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the Africa Day late on Friday. The day celebrates the day that the Organisation of African Unity which transformed to the African Union in 2002 was founded.

Mauritius economic growth rate soars

Meanwhile, Mauritius will uphold its economic strength with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 3.6% forecasted for 2012 despite the undesirable impacts of the euro zone crisis affecting the world economy.

The country’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Xavier-Luc Duval Friday said Mauritius will be encouraging further Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from emerging economies such as China and will also tap into the African continent.

This he said is meant to decrease its dependence on the European market given the fact that Sub-Saharan African economies are growing at a fast rate with a forecast growth rate of over 6% in the coming years.

Minister Duval pointed out that various sectors of the Mauritian economy like tourism, exports, fish production, IT (Information Technology) and financial services, have recorded growth.

However, he also cautioned that the country should be well prepared to handle a set of challenges with uncertainties prevailing in the world economy.

Minister Duval specified that inflation rate would decline to touch around 4.5% in 2012 with a positive balance of payments of around $85,733,882.

Sugarcane

The Budget deficit will be forecasted to around 3.8% alongside a decrease in public debt that the government wants to tackle.

“The focus for this year will be on investment, increased productivity of businesses and diversifying the markets. Investment will grow by 0.5% in 2012 and (FDI) Foreign Direct Investment would hover around the same figures as for 2011 with estimate of $342, 935, 529," he said.

Mr Duval also outlined the need for better economic strategy plans into the future, expressing the growing need for firm policy to drive investment within the recently sketched ten-year Economic and Social Transformation Plan (ESTP).

The ambitious task of devising strategies for Mauritius to swing from the current income of about $8,000 per capita to a high-income country with over $14,000 per capita is underway, Prime Minister’s Offices said in a statement to newsrooms.

According to (HRDC) Human Resources Development Council of Mauritius, the ICT sector has enormous potential for investment and for creating further growth and is expected to employ over 19,000 people by 2015.

However, the sugarcane and construction industry is set to see a downfall in growth figures this year.