Half of Africa wants to join into a single free trade area.

Plans to create a 26-nation free trade area by integrating three existing African trade blocs by July 2014 are on track and the only major sticking point is likely to be harmonising rules of origin, the three blocs said on Friday.

The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aim to create a free market of 525 million people with an output of $1 trillion when they unite.

Although African economies are growing fast – second only to Asia – the continent has attracted criticism over its slow pace of integration, a delay that is seen as driving up the cost of doing business.

I hope it’s not just wishful thinking. The article reports some interesting facts about the growing intra-African trade:

regional integration had led to a doubling in trade among EAC states after its member states entered a customs union in 2005.

… trade among SADC nations grew 18 percent last year. However, without South Africa, the region’s most economically competitive state, the growth rate was 4-6 percent, exposing a lack of competitiveness among the other members.