Member and Partner States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been called upon to rapidly conclude processes and procedures towards the ratification and implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
The call was made during the Extraordinary Virtual Meeting of the Tripartite Council of Ministers held on 15 February, 2021 to discuss the status of signature and ratification of the TFTA and Guidelines for Management and Monitoring of Safe Cross Border Movement of Persons and Personal Goods while Mitigating the Spread of the Coronavirus.
Currently 10 Member and Partner States, namely Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Eswatini and Zambia have ratified the TFTA Agreement, which falls short of the 14 Tripartite Member and Partner States required for the TFTA to enter into force in accordance with Article 39 (3) of the TFTA Agreement.
Honourable Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda and Vice Chairperson of the Tripartite Council of Ministers, urged Member and Partner states to fast-track all the necessary processes and procedures to rapidly ratify and implement the TFTA, noting that the TFTA is important to the economic integration of the Tripartite region.
The Chairperson of the Tripartite Task Force, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, the Executive Secretary of SADC, underscored the urgency for the implementation of the TFTA, saying the Agreement is now needed more than ever as a critical step towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA).
Responding to COVID-19 within the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite area, H.E. Dr Tax noted that under the prevailing environment of COVID-19, reopening of borders and economies needs to be done under a harmonised framework in line with the set national, regional and international protocols on COVID-19.
The TFTA Agreement was launched in June, 2015 with the aim of promoting economic and social development of the region, create a large market with free movement of goods and services to promote intra-regional trade and enhance the regional and continental integration and build a strong TFTA for the benefit of the people of the Tripartite region.
Together, the COMESA, EAC and SADC Member and Partner States represent 53 percent of the African Union membership, constitute over US$1.4 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is roughly 60 percent of African continental GDP and a combined estimated population of 800 million, making the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA an important building block for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
During the meeting, the Tripartite Council of Ministers adopted Guidelines for Management and Monitoring of Safe Cross Border Movement of Persons and Personal Goods while Mitigating the Spread of the Corona Virus. The Guidelines are aimed at ensuring safe mass movement of persons and personal goods across the region while mitigating the spread of the corona virus; and the harmonising national guidelines for the re-opening of air, land and sea borders while preventing the spread of COVID-19 across borders.
The Tripartite Council of Ministers meeting was attended by, among others, Ministers and Senior Officials from the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Member and Partner States, H.E. Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, Secretary General of EAC, H.E. Chileshe Kapwepwe, Secretary General of COMESA, and H.E. Dr Tax.