As African leaders from three trade blocs signed a free trade deal involving 26 countries and more than 600-million people, the African Union is on the eve of launching negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Area, the CFTA. The Triparitie Free Trade Area deal, signed in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt yesterday will integrate three existing trade blocs - the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA. Africa's leaders have set 2017 as the deadline for the establishment of the CFTA. African Union Trade Commissioner, Fatima Haram Acyl, admits that creating a free trade area among Africa's 54 countries will not be easy, but says there's a firm belief that for the continent to truly develop, Africa must trade with Africa. She told journalists at the AU Summit underway in Johannesburg that the CFTA will help address many of Africa's biggest challenges such as youth unemployment, skills development, women's empowerment, industrialisation and infrastructure development..