Since 2008, there was talk about merging the member states of COMESA, the East African Community (EAC, with five members) and the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC, with 14 members). In 2011, leaders of the 26 African countries within these three existing regional economic communities announced plans to negotiate a tripartite free trade area between them which would, cover over 600 million people and an estimated US$1 trillion in trade. In June 2011 in Johannesburg governments adopted the negotiating principles, modalities for negotiations and a roadmap for negotiating such an agreement at the 2nd Comesa-EAC-Sadc Summit. The first negotiating round was held in Nairobi in December 2011 and in June 2015 the "Tripartite Free Trade Area" or #TFTA was finally signed. It now needs to be ratified by the assemblies of parliaments of each member state to come into effect.
The texts of the FTA are here: http://www.tralac.org/resources/by-region/comesa-eac-sadc-tripartite-fta.html.
This agreement is to form the precursor of a continental Africa-wide FTA or CFTA.
last update: June 2015
photo: Tahrir Institute
Economic experts have supported the recent decision taken by the government of Uganda to join the COMESA FTA, saying it would increase the volume of Ugandan exports to the COMESA FTA and promote the country’s economic growth.
The President of the African Organization for Standardization maintains that SADC, ECOWAS and EAC will continue to exist alongside the new African Free Trade Area.
Three regional economic communities (Recs) have taken the lead as Africa seeks to remove trade barriers by 2017.
Plans to create an African free trade area (FTA) by integrating three existing African trade blocs consisting of 26 countries by July 2014 are gaining momentum. The aim is to create a free market of 525 million people with an output of US$1 trillion making it a global player.
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.
First round of negotiations to establish the $1 trillion Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) covering 27 countries in eastern and southern Africa are scheduled to start next month, the head of the taskforce spearheading the process has said.
African heads of state have ambitious plans to create a free trade zone, encompassing 26 countries and more than 600 million people on the continent. But economic experts warn the project is a bold step that comes with a plethora of legal, administrative and political hurdles. Others suggest the plan might be a pie in the sky.
It is not certain that an African free trade area will further regional integration or deepen the existing inequality between countries.
At the Chirundu border, along the north-south transport corridor between Zimbabwe and Zambia, commercial trucks used to wait five days to get clearance. Now, they can get through in a matter of hours.
It is referred to as the “Grand Free Trade Area” or the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, and true to its name it will be one of the largest free trade areas in the developing world when it becomes a reality. The 26-nation free trade area encompassing countries from Egypt to South Africa and three existing free trade blocs will be a very important platform for countries to engage and invest.