Heads of State and representatives from 26 African nations within the Southern, Eastern and Central region agreed to establish a Free Trade Area (FTA) within the blocs to bolster intra-regional trade flows.
They signed a declaration to launch negotiations into establishing the tripartite FTA, during the second COMESA-EA-SADC summit that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, earlier this week.
The FTA is anticipated to create a single wider market within the three blocs which boast a combined population of nearly 600 million and a total gross domestic products of US$1 trillion (Rwf594 trillion).
This in turn will reciprocate into increased investment flows, encourage competition in the economies and also develop cross-regional infrastructure.
A communiqué from Johannesburg noted that the market integration will highly focus on sharing the costs of infrastructure and industrial development to enhance connectivity and reduce costs of doing business in the region.
“The Heads of State agreed that the tripartite initiative is a decisive step to achieve the vision of establishing the African Economic Community envisioned in several resolutions such as the Lagos Plan of Action and the African Union Summit,” the communiqué reads.
“They agreed to harmonize regional policies and important strategies to put in place mechanisms to facilitate the process of harmonization and coordination.”
Erastus Mwencha, the Deputy Chairperson of African Union Commission said that the tripartite union between COMESA, EAC and SADC represents the overall goal of the AU, which is to establish cooperation and integration in the African Community.
Negotiations for a Free Trade Area kicked off earlier in January 2011, after representatives of COMESA, EAC and SADC signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Inter-Regional cooperation and Integration.
The three combined, COMESA, EAC and SADC make up half of the African Union membership and just over 58 percent in terms of contribution to GDP and 57 percent of the total population of the African Union.