The East African Community is now the chair of the Tripartite regional economic communities that include the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – COMESA and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Secretary General of the EAC Dr Peter Mathuki took over the Chair of the Tripartite Task Force (TTF) from his SADC counterpart Dr Stergomena Tax during the 33rd meeting held virtually on 8 June 2021.
COMESA Secretary General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe attended the meeting which comprises of the chief executives of the three organizations. The chair of the TTF rotates annually among the three.
The objective of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite group is to strengthen economic integration of the southern and eastern Africa region through joint planning, design, coordination, and implementation of policies and programmes across the three blocs. The focus areas are trade, customs and infrastructure development, and industrialisation. The Tripartite FTA was launched on 10 June 2015 to also provide a platform to address the overlapping memberships of countries to the three organizations.
So far, the 10 Member/Partner States have ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) short of the 14 required for the Agreement to enter into force. They include Egypt, Eswatini, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. In February, this year, during the 2nd Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the Tripartite Council of Ministers a new deadline for attainment of the ratification threshold of 14 was set as June 2021. The fresh deadline coincides with the sixth anniversary of the launch of the TFTA Agreement. Hence the meeting acknowledged that the attainment of this threshold remains a top priority of the TTF under the new leadership.
Giving her scorecard of the past year of her tenure, Dr Tax outlined the achievements realized key among them the approval of harmonised tripartite guidelines on trade and transport facilitation for safe, efficient and cost-effective movement of goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other milestones were the drafting of numerous legal instruments that will facilitate implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA). These relate to movement of businesspersons, elimination of import duties, trade remedies, rules of origin, dispute settlement mechanism; vehicle load management agreement; multilateral cross border road transport agreement; vehicle load management model law; cross border road transport model law; road traffic model law; road traffic and transport transgressions model law; and transport of dangerous goods by road model law.
These legal instruments will be presented to Tripartite Council of Ministers for adoption during its next meeting and subsequent implementation to facilitate effective operationalisation of the TFTA.
The meeting noted that the approval of harmonised tripartite guidelines will help attain a coordinated approach to the fight against the pandemic by providing a seamless flow of essential commodities such as food and medical supplies.
Directors, Senior Officials and Technical Experts from the COMESA, EAC and SADC Secretariats