Arusha. All East African Community (EAC) member states are set to ratify the Comesa-Sadc-EAC Tripartite Agreement by end of next month.
The agreement is aimed at establishing the largest free trade area in Africa.
This was revealed here at the weekend by EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko when handing over the chairmanship of the Tripartite Task Force (TTF).
The secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), Mr Sindiso Ndema Ngwenya, now becomes the TFF chairman, the position held by Mr Mfumukeko since October last year.
According to the EAC boss, 21 countries out of 26 in the three blocs, have signed the FTA agreement. “I’m happy to tell you that all the EAC partner states have committed to ratifying the agreement by December 2017,” Mr Mfumukeko said at the EAC headquarters.
Realisation of the tripartite agreement, according to him, has entered a new phase focussing on concluding negotiations on the rules of origin and tariffs.
For his part, Mr Ngwenya said the African Development Bank (AfDB) has provided funds to support efforts aimed at creating awareness on the importance of FTA Tripartite.
The agreement requires 14 ratifications before it becomes operational. So far it is only Egypt that has ratified the agreement.
The proposed free trade area to cover 26 countries in Africa will have a combined population of 600 million and combined Gross National Product (GDP) of about $ 1 trillion. The Tripartite FTA for the three economic blocs was launched in June 2015 at the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el Sheikh and its task force was mandated to speed up operationalisation of the FTA through, among other things, elimination of import duties.
Other tasks were commencement of phase two negotiations covering trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investments.
Four of the EAC partner states; Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda are also members of Comesa members while Tanzania is a member to Sadc. The status of the new entrant into the Community, South Sudan, could not be established.
The TFTA will stretch from Cape Town to Cairo, creating an integrated market with a combined population of almost 600 million people and a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US$1 trillion.
The TFTA comprises the three largest regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa: the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The deal will come into force once ratification is attained by two-thirds of the 26 member states.
A post-signature implementation plan will follow the launch including, among other elements, an indicative schedule of negotiations on outstanding issues in phase I and phase II of the negotiations