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South African Wamkele Mene has emerged the first secretary-general of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Mr Mene’s emergence followed a close contest with Nigerian Cecilia Akintomide for the top job.

It also capped days of intense lobbying by the two countries to win support from other member states of the African Union.

The vote that confirmed Mr Mene came on Monday at the end of the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

Three candidates were initially shortlisted for the position. The third, Faustin Luanga from Democratic Republic of Congo, was soon shoved aside by the diplomatic weight of Nigeria and South Africa.

Following strong indication that Mr Mene had become the favourite to be the first head of the continental-tariff free policy, Nigeria insisted that the position should be up for election and not based on appointment.

Mr Mene, 40, was the lead negotiator for South Africa when AfCFTA was being considered by the 54 countries and territories that make up the continent.

He was also spent years as a chief trade analyst at the World Trade Organisation.

Ghana has already won the secretariat for AfCFTA, and President Nana Akufo-Addo promised the offices would be ready by March 31 in Accra.

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