December 7 - A meeting of trade ministers from African Union (AU) members held in Ghana has been told of the importance of spending more time and investment in major and strategic infrastructure-oriented agreements that boost long-term prospects for the c

The 7th Ordinary Conference of Ministers of Trade, held in Accra, Ghana was dominated by issues arising from Africa's overall trade flows and the potential for boosting intra-African trade from the current levels of around 13 percent to 25 percent or more within the next decade. The aim would be to make intra-African trade a driver of development and regional integration, in much the same way as regions such as the European Union and Asia have prospered.

Delegates learnt that boosting intra-African trade requires a significant amount of investment in infrastructure such as roads, railways and ports as well as the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers such as the harmonisation of certification and standardisation systems and putting in place mechanisms for free convertibility of currencies. Many delegates described that moving freight to Europe was often easier than moving it to neighbouring African countries.

The conference is a forerunner to the 2012 AU Summit of Heads of State and Government, which will focus on the theme of boosting Intra-Africa trade, leading ultimately to the establishment of a Pan-African free trade agreement.