MINISTERS from the tripartite group of regional economic communities in eastern and southern Africa have set June 2021 as the deadline to achieve the threshold of 14 ratifications required to enable the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) to enter into force.
The deadline was set during the 2nd Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the Tripartite Council of Ministers held virtually last week.
It coincides with the 6th anniversary since the launch of the TFTA agreement on 10 June 2015 in Egypt, said the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) in a statement.
The tripartite group brings together member States of Comesa, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).
“The countries that ratified the agreement earlier have not realised the benefits they had expected as they have been held back by those that have not,” the ministers were quoted as saying, noting that some member States have ratified the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) but not the TFTA.
“The ministers advised countries to delink ratification with the ongoing negotiations. Besides, the team of experts conducting the negotiations confirmed they will be concluded before June this year,” said Comesa.
Currently, 10 member States, which are Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have ratified the agreement with four more needed to attain the ratification threshold.
The Comesa, EAC and SADC member and partner States represent 53 percent of the African Union membership, constitute over US$1,4 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is about 60 percent of African continental GDP and a combined estimated population of 800 million, making the TFTA an important building block for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018, (three years after the TFTA) and implementation began in January this year. It is hoped that the guidelines will facilitate the harmonisation of national guidelines for the re-opening of all modes of transport including air, land and sea borders for mass movement persons and personal goods in line with national laws and regulations.
The work already done under the tripartite framework contributed to the speedy implementation of the continental trade regime.