Members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) were urged last week by the COMESA Council of Ministers – the highest decision making structure within COMESA— to sign and ratify the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement. The Council also reviewed the negotiations of the TFTA agreement at the 35th Meeting of the Council in Lusaka, Zambia from 2-4 March.
The COMESA is the largest regional economic organization in Africa, with 19 member states and a population of about 390 million.
The TFTA is expected to bring together 26 member states of COMESA, the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) into a combined market of 625 million consumers and a GDP of US$1.3 trillion. These regional processes will be consolidated into the Continental FTA (CFTA) between 2015 and 2016, with the pan-African pact launching in 2017 and a continental customs union forming by 2019, according to a roadmap released by the African Union in 2011.
The launch of the TFTA was originally planned for December 2014. However, several delays and postponements were encountered. The TFTA was finally signed by most of its member states during the Third Tripartite Summit held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on 10 June 2015.