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Arusha, Friday, November, 17, 2017: Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya is the new chair of the COMESA , EAC and SADC Tripartite Task Force. He took over from Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, Secretary General of the EAC at a brief handing over ceremony at the headquarters of the East African Community in Arusha, Tanzania.

In his acceptance statement, Mr Ngwenya thanked the EAC SG for excellent work done and the achievements made during his tenure.

"I have listened to the outgoing chairperson and realize that there is still a lot of work that still needs to be done for the Tripartite in order for the Tripartite FTA Agreement to enter into force," he said.

He equally thanked the African Development Bank (AfDB) for providing part of the financial resources to support efforts aimed at creating awareness on the importance of the Tripartite FTA Agreement and the need to have it ratified by Tripartite Member/Partner States that have signed it.

The Tripartite FTA was conceived to address the problem of conflicting policies and regulatory frameworks arising from multiple membership of the countries in COMESA, EAC, and SADC; as well as the problem of diminutive markets that can't support critical levels of investment and rationalize large infrastructure projects.

By providing a single economic space with harmonized trade policies and regulatory framework, the Tripartite FTA solves the problem of multiple membership, reduces the cost of doing business, and supports industrialization and cross border infrastructure projects.

The last time COMESA held the mantle was in 2014-2015 when it successfully steered the tripartite team to the historical launching of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area before handing over to SADC. The position of the Task Force Chairperson is for the duration of one year after which it rotates to the next REC.

At the launch of the TFTA, 15 out of the 26 countries that comprise the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite signed the Free Trade Agreement on the spot. The rest of the States said they needed more time to complete their internal processes before signing the documents, which are binding international agreements. Since then six more have signed bringing the total number of signatories to the TFT Agreement to 21.

Countries that signed are expected to proceed to the next level of the ratification process through their legislative assemblies. The Agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by three quarters of the Member States. Currently only Egypt has signed and ratified the Agreement. A minimum of 14 countries are required to ratify the Agreement for it to come into force.

The number of countries have also increased to 27 with the entry of South Sudan as a partner State of the EAC. Currently, the combined Gross Domestic Product of the tripartite is USD 1.47 trillion and population of 674 million.