November 1, 2023

The Kingdom of Lesotho signs the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement

The signing ceremony was held on 27 October 2023, in Maseru, Lesotho and was witnessed by the Kingdom of Lesotho governmental authorities, parliamentarians, private sector, and representatives of the Tripartite Task Force (TTF) from the three Secretariates, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)-East African Community (EAC)-Southern African Development Community (SADC), 

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement was finalised and opened for signature in 2015 at the third Tripartite Summit, held in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt. The TFTA Agreement has three main pillars: market integration, industrialisation, and infrastructure development, and is complemented by cross cutting issues of resource mobilisation and free movement of persons, and sets out the following objectives:

  • promoting economic and social development of the Tripartite region;

  • creating a large single market with free movement of goods and services to promote intra-regional trade;

  • enhancing the regional and continental integration processes; and

  • building a strong Tripartite Free Trade Area for the benefit of the people of the three Regional Economic Communities of COMESA, EAC and SADC.

Representatives from the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) made their respective statements, commending Lesotho and highlighting the importance of the TFTA Agreement for the Tripartite regional integration and the acquis to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA Agreement)

Representing the Executive Secretary of SADC, His Excellency Mr Elias Magosi, the Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration at the SADC Secretariat, Ms. Angele Makombo N’Tumba, commended and congratulated the Kingdom of Lesotho for signing the TFTA Agreement. With the signature by the Kingdom of Lesotho, the TFTA Agreement has twenty-three signatures (23), and eleven (11) ratifications. Fourteen (14) ratifications by Member/Partner States are required to bring the Agreement into force.

Ms. N’Tumba further highlighted the complementarity of the Tripartite Agreement to the SADC vision and the pillars of   the SADC Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030.

Speaking on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development, and Tourism, Honourable Mokhethi Shelile, indicated the importance of the TFTA for the private sector and the commitment by the government to implement the Agreement. He said that the signature will be followed by immediate ratification and deposit of the respective instruments to the TTF Chair. 

The Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development, and Tourism of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Honourable Mokhethi Shelile, signed the TFTA Agreement, on behalf of the Government of Lesotho. 

The TFTA Agreement will contribute to the implementation of the (AfCFTA Agreement) by creating more liberalized environment for trade amongst African countries, complementing the objectives of the African Union Abuja Treaty and Agenda 2063, of boosting intra-African trade and deepening Africa’s market integration, fostering competition, and assisting African countries to become competitive and effective on the global market.