The successful conclusion of negotiations between the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and the East African Community (EAC), marks a significant step towards realising the benefits of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) an EAC communiqué released Thursday says.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area, which was launched in June 2015, aims to establish a single market for 27 African countries with a combined population of about 700 million people (57 per cent of Africa’s population), and Gross Domestic Product above $1.4 trillion. “The conclusion of the SACU-EAC negotiations marks a significant step towards realising the benefits of the TFTA. The main aim of the SACU-EAC market access negotiations has always been to provide commercially meaningful market access for the private sector in the two regions,” reads part of the EAC communiqué.
“The SACU-EAC private sector will thus have access to new and dynamic markets for exports as well as new sources of inputs for domestic production processes, thereby enhancing intra-regional trade.”
Furthermore, it is noted, there is emphasis on the development of regional value chains in a wide range of sectors, to deepen integration between SACU and the EAC.
Building block for AfCFTA
“The conclusion of the negotiations provides an opportunity for the TFTA to be a building block and to have a coordinated approach for negotiations in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).”
According to Francis Mangeni, the Director of Trade and Customs at the COMESA Secretariat, after conclusion of the EAC-SACU tariff negotiations, what has been agreed there can also be harvested into AFTA, “so that there are no new negotiations between EAC and SACU for the ACFTA Tariffs.”
The entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, on May 30, 2019, is a turning point for the -African continent, experts and integrationists, said last week.
The TFTA is built on three pillars (market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development) and there is a parallel agreement on movement of business persons.
The Tripartite approach reflects the desire to advance regional integration from multiple fronts. As such, the TFTA would facilitate development of regional infrastructure for cross-border trade and lead to harmonisation of trade regimes amongst Tripartite Member or Partner States stimulate industrial development through creation of value chains and facilitate movement of business persons.
As part of the market integration pillar, Member/Partner States have been engaged in bilateral tariff liberalisation negotiations.
The market access negotiations between SACU, consisting of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, and the EAC – Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – “have largely been successfully concluded.”