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
Negotiations for the establishment of a grand free trade area by three African regional economic communities are scheduled to start soon following the launching of the process by a Tripartite Summit that ended last week in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The planned creation of a 26-nation African Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) will draw industrial investment to South Africa by making it a springboard for low-duty access to other parts of the continent, trade and industry director general Lionel October said on Monday.
On Sunday, heads of state and government from Africa’s three main regional blocs – the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community – will meet in South Africa to launch negotiations for a Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA).
A trade expert yesterday warned that vested interests and policy differences in the East Africa and Southern African region could derail a bid to create a free-trade agreement among 26 countries unless there was enough "political stomach for deeper (regional) integration".
Success of the grandiose Tripartite Free Trade Area will largely depend on how geared members of COMESA, EAC and SADC are to swiftly implementing agreements and trade protocols.
In the inaugural tripartite summit held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008, our heads of state and government made a number of decisions, one of which was that the 26 countries that make up the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite should speed up the process of integration as outlined in the Lagos plan of action and as articulated by the continental body of the African union commission.
The first summit of the envisaged Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA) will be held in South Africa on June 12 where a specific roadmap and timetable for implementation of the expanded economic grouping will be announced.
Before mid-year South Africa would host the next summit on the establishment of a Trilateral Free Trade Agreement (T-FTA) among the regional economic groupings of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Negotiations for a tripartite free trade area (FTA), which would include 26 East and Southern African member states, were expected to begin by mid-year, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Tuesday.
Implementation challenges and barriers to trade liberalization currently dogging SADC’s Free Trade Area (FTA) will continue to haunt member states in the implementation of an ambitious grand FTA encompassing COMESA, EAC and SADC.