KAMPALA - Preparations to have a free trade zone across Africa’s three economic blocs are in high gear, Juma Mwapachu, the East Africa Community (EAC) Secretary General has said.
The efforts are a result of a tripartite summit held in Kampala last year, where heads of state from the three regional blocs; EAC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community, (SADC) agreed on the expeditious establishment of a free trade bloc.
“We are at the stage where we are about to complete the technical study which will determine what form of free trade area we should have,” Mwapachu told journalists at the just concluded EAC media summit in Kampala.
The study, being conducted by a consultancy firm from the three blocs, will define the institutional arrangements required and a roadmap towards the establishment of the free trade area.
Mwapachu, who is also the chairperson of the tripartite process, added that he will soon meet with his counterparts from SADC and COMESA in Zambia, to review two reports, one from the consultancy firm and another from trade and custom officers from the three regional blocs.
This meeting, he said, will come up with proposals which will be tabled before a Tripartite Council of Ministers in January next year.
The council comprises of Ministers of trade and industry and those in charge of EAC affairs for EAC partner states.
“They will look at the proposals, review them and make concrete recommendations which will be tabled before the tripartite summit in March next year.
The summit will then pronounce when this free trade should be constituted,” Mwapachu said.
The summit directed the chairpersons of the Councils of Ministers in the three blocs to speed up the development of joint financial systems, capital markets and commodity exchanges.
It also directed them to ensure that their secretariats harmonise positions on Economic Partnership Agreements, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
According to a joint communiqué issued at the end of the summit last year, the three blocs will have a single airspace within a year and an inter-regional broadband network for internet.
The three communities also resolved to coordinate their master plans for regional transport and energy within 12 months.