African free trade deal launch unlikely this year - AfCFTA Sec Gen

LAGOS, May 1 (Reuters) - A blockbuster African trade deal is unlikely to be implemented before early next year, an official said on Friday, after the disruption caused by the new coronavirus made the current July 1 deadline unworkable.

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, told Reuters that while only the heads of state of the 55-member AfCFTA could sanction changes to the deadlines, the cancelled summit between leaders planned for May in South Africa left few options.

“It is only after the summit that you can say we have a new trading date. The next opportunity of a summit is on 2 January 2021,” Mene said.

The continental free-trade zone would, if successful, become the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994, stitching 1.3 billion people together in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc. (Reporting by Libby George; Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Hugh Lawson)