Third COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit of the Heads of State and Government, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 10th June 2015
African leaders from 26 nations gathered at the Third COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit launching the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt on the 10th June 2015, for a deal that paves the way for a free trade zone that extends the length of the continent. While outstanding issues remain to be finalized, the TFTA brings together three of the main trading blocs on the continent, namely, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the South African Development Community (SADC).
The TFTA spans from Cairo to Cape Town and represents a combined population of 625 million people which is 57% of Africa's population and with a total GDP of US$1.6 trillion (2013) contributing to 58% of Africa's GDP. The TFTA is expected to bolster intra- regional trade by creating a wider market, increase flows, enhance competitiveness and encourage regional development, as well as pioneer the integration of the African continent.
H.E. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, stated at the Summit that “it was a very important step in the history of regional integration of Africa". This represents a historic milestone for regional integration in Africa, given that upon entry into force, the TFTA will become the largest trading block on the continent as it will constitute half of the members of the African Union.
The Vice President of the Republic of Seychelles, Mr. Danny Faure represented President James Michel at the Summit and signed the Declaration launching the Tripartite Free Trade Area as well as the Draft Tripartite Free Trade Agreement.
The launching of the Free Trade Area is the culmination of four years of negotiations that was launched in 2008 in Kampala, Uganda. The four years of negotiations is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of triumph of collective responsibility and signifies that the region is committed to achieving a mutually beneficial agreement. The second phase of the negotiations is planned to commence from July 2015 and it will comprise of negotiations in the areas of services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.
Upon finalization of the comprehensive agreement, in addition to providing members access to a larger single regional market for both exports and imports, the TFTA is expected to reduce the complexities and costs associated with having to trade under multiple regional free trade areas.