HARARE, June 9 (The Source) – African heads of state and government will tomorrow launch the continent’s largest free trade area in Egypt as the region seeks to boost intra-regional trade and improve competitiveness.
The proposed FTA, to be called the Tripartite Free Trade Area, will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and will form the basis for the establishment of the Africa-wide Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017. It is seen fostering regional integration at a time most African countries are looking beyond the region for exports.
The TFTA, which will bring together the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — blocs with a combined population of 625 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1,2 trillion, will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58 percent of the continent’s GDP.
“The Chairman of the Tripartite Task Force Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, who is also the Secretary General of COMESA, presented the draft documents to the Ministers during their meeting today at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt,” said Comesa in a statement issued on Monday.
“The Ministers and their representatives from the 26 countries in the three economic communities also finalized the programme that will guide the Tripartite Heads of State and Government in launching the grand Free Trade Area on Wednesday.”
Egypt’s Trade and Industry minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour described the launch of the tripartite as a giant step in the integration agenda that will enable the achievement of the African dream of a continental Free Trade Area.
“By creating the TFTA we aim at enlarging the markets for the benefits of economies of scale, to use efficiently the natural resources, to profit from complementarities and strengthen our bargaining powers,” the minister said.
Experts say while the initiative will lower tariffs, non-tariff barriers are fast becoming a handicap for regional trade.