By Irene Gaitirira
Published September 15, 2017
Southern and eastern Africa are exploring ways in which to bring the two regions together for economic integration.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the East African Community (EAC) have held a meeting to negotiate a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that could see a larger market comprising 26 countries with a combined population of nearly 625 million people and an estimated total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximately US$1.0 Trillion established.
The primary aim of the market access negotiations between SACU that brings together five countries–South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland–and the EAC with six countries–Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan–is to provide commercially meaning new markets to each side, to develop regional value chains and to enable SACU and the EAC to deepen integration.
Trade Ministers of SACU and EAC, meeting in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng Province of South Africa on September 14, 2017 to advance the market access negotiations in the framework of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that comprises Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the EAC, agreed on the need to expeditiously conclude the negotiations before the end of 2017 to enable businesses benefit from the new market access.
Launched in the Egyptian tourism mecca of Sharm el Sheik in 2015, TFTA–which recognises the complementarities between market integration, industrial development and addressing infrastructure constraints–sets the foundation for the establishment of a larger eastern and southern African market.
Analysts say the main benefits of TFTA will include a larger and growing regional market, economies of scale, enhanced intra-regional trade and global competitiveness of the region.
Some 20 countries have so far signed the TFTA Agreement.