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CFTA, new opportunities for African youth  

ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) is taking various measures to realize the Continental Free Trade Area in Africa (CFTA), which officials say will bring immense benefits to the continent’s young population.

The AU summit in 2012 decided to establish a CFTA by 2017, and also endorsed the Action Plan on boosting intra-Africa trade, which the AU hopes to double by 2021.

The Africa CFTA aims to achieve objectives among others creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.

In 2015, AU launched the CFTA negotiations which, according to the pan-African bloc, covers the liberalization of trade in goods, trade in services, competition as well as investment and intellectual property rights.

According to Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, the negotiations, which are moving in the right direction at desired pace, are held in two phases, the first one on trade in goods and services, the second one on competition as well as investment and intellectual property rights.

AU has said CFTA would create many opportunities, in particular employment opportunities for Africa’s young population.

The AU commissioner states that African youth benefit most from the increased investment flows following the establishment of CFTA, which in turn helps diminish the pressure on youth to migrate out of Africa, hence reducing associated danger of exposing Africa’s youth to criminal syndicates involved in human trafficking.

Marie Ngha from Mali is one of few young intern and volunteers who joined the AU Department of Trade and Industry as an industry and policy analyst two months ago.

Ngha looks the CFTA as a good platform that will bring many opportunities for the youth on the continent, including employment opportunities and access to technologies as CFTA eases movement of people across the continent.

“The CFTA has many opportunities for us. When we talk about CFTA, we mean job creation for youth, access to technologies for the youth and also promotion of peace and security,” she said on Friday during an event organized in the framework of the 29th AU summit in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

Muchanga said AU is working on the establishment of CFTA as Africa faces the challenges of massive unemployment, underemployment, poverty and climate change among others.

The CFTA is one of the attempts to address some of the challenges, by creating an environment which can be exploited to empower African youth and improve their welfare, according to the AU official.

“By creating a large harmonized market, the CFTA will transform Africa into major global investment hub, especially taking into account the fact that the economic prospects for Africa in the period 2017 to 2021 look bright,” said the AU commissioner.

“With investments will come new skills through transfer of technology and increased employment prospects for our youth.”

Over 40 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 15, and a further 20 percent are between the ages of 15 and 24.

It is expected that the number of the African youth between 15 and 24 will double to over 400 million by 2045, which will make Africa a young continent where the median age is 19 years.

“In creating the CFTA, we are also keenly aware of the rapid transition of the world towards the fourth industrial revolution. With their talents to harness modern technology with confidence and ease, our young men and women will be better placed to acquire the digital skills that they would acquire to competitively participate in the digital economy which demands that every person be an innovator and entrepreneur in their own right as well as potential generator of jobs,” said the AU official.   

The CFTA on the continent brings a combined population of more than 1 billion people and a combined GDP of more than 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars. 

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