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Negotiations for e-commerce and digital trade under an Africa-wide free trade pact will be fast-tracked as the coronavirus pandemic heightens the need for a legal and governance framework, according to the zone’s most senior official.

The talks that were to have been part of phase 3 of what could be the world’s biggest free trade area will now take place alongside phase 2 negotiations on competition policy, intellectual property rights and investment protocols, said Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA). Discussions are expected to begin early next year...

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