Africa’s Free Trade Area Set To Launch In June, 2015
26 countries African countries, with a combined population of over a billion people and a GDP of $1 trillion have come together to launch a Free Trade Area (FTA). The official launch of the FTA will take place in Egypt come June this year. The Tripartite FTA will be made up of about half of all the member of African Union, which contributes to more that 58 percent total GDP and 57 percent of the total population in Africa.
Bernard Haule, the Acting Director of Trade, Investment and Productive Sector at East African Cooperation Ministry reiterated that the launch of Africa’s grand FTA will open new trade opportunities. Opening new doors to zero-tariff trade among member states belonging to the Common Marker for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and East African Community (EAC).
Haule said, “Leaders from the tripartite blocs who will include President Jakaya Kikwete as current EAC Chairman, will launch it in Egypt at a summit to be held next June.”
Haule further explained that negotiations on this subject between the three regional block are at a very advanced stages. Pointing out that it is only clauses on the movement of business, people and disputes settlement that yet to be agreed upon. These talks are part of Phase I of the talks. There will be another Phase II talks, which will deliberate on trade in services and intellectual property rights.
“The heads of state will also give a directive on the beginning of negotiations relating to trade in services and dispute settlement mechanism.”
The idea of merging all 52 African countries into a grandeur FTA has been floated around since 1980. It was only in 2008, in Kampala, Uganda where heads of state made a strong felt push to merge COMESA, EAS and SADC.
The second tripartite meeting to follow was held in Jo-burg, South Africa back in 2011. Where negotiations principles and a roadmap that ended up in a declaration was agreed on. All the participating countries that went as far as signing the Declaration Launching Negotiation and by that committing to negotiations that will later lead to the establishment of tripartite FTA.
Haule further said, “Out of the 26 countries which make up the combined membership of COMESA, EAC and SADC, 23 countries signed the Declaration.”
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Madagascar later signed the Declaration. Some of the benefits FTA will present the member countries include; stimulating economic growth by facilitating, attracting foreign direct investments, harmonizing quality and standards while encouraging fair competition.