Johannesburg - Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, is among African Heads of State and Government who convened in Johannesburg, South African to discuss among others the formation of the Grand Free Trade Area among three regional economic blocs.
The blocs bring together the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The establishment of a Grand Free Trade Area among the three blocs is expected to unleash the enormous economic growth and development potential for Africa as this will become a historical milestone in the integration of the continent.
In exclusive interview with The New Times, Prof. Manasseh Nshuti, an economics expert, termed the integration as a rightful path that will help African countries spur their economic growth.
“Economic integration mainly aims at creating markets. For example, like Rwanda, if we are to invest in a huge industry, we need a large market. We have to move beyond our small market; therefore if this integration is realised, it will be great chance for African countries,” said Nshuti said.
He noted that European countries have economically benefited from the establishment of the European Union single market, adding that it Africa needs to adopt the same to enhance economic expansion.
He further acknowledged that for Rwanda to efficiently gain from the three economic blocs, there is need to increase capacity building among the nationals to compete favourably on the expanded market.
“Its good to venture into a big market but the question remains; what are we investing in this market? That’s why we need to train our people to exploit that market,” said Nshuti added., a former cabinet minister.
Spanning from Cape Town to Cairo, the grand Free Trade Area (FTA) will encompass 26 countries with a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$860 billion and a combined population of about 590million people.
The idea of a Grand FTA was given impetus by the first COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite summit held in Kampala Uganda in October 2008 where the Ppresidents gave political endorsement to a process envisaged to spur greater cooperation and harmonisation of policies by the three blocs.
The Johannesburg summit that is organised under the theme “Deepening COMESA-EAC-SADC integration with a common vision Towards a Single Market” will also address the challenges of overlapping membership through harmonising programs across the three blocs.