Lusaka, Friday, December 02, 2022: COMESA Council of Ministers will engage their counterparts in Member States that have not ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) to do so as a matter of priority to pave way for its implementation.
This was one of the key decisions taken during the 43rd meeting of the Council conducted on 01 December 2022 in Lusaka, Zambia. The action is intended to clear the remaining hurdle to enable the TFTA to enter into force.
The ministers noted that the delay in achieving the 14 States’ ratification threshold has negatively impacted the Member/Partner States in harnessing the potential benefits from international support for the financing of development programmes. It was also constraining resources mobilization efforts by the COMESA Secretariat. So far, 11 States have ratified the TFTA three short of the required threshold of 14 to enable the Agreement to enter into force.
Another decision taken related to the preservation of the jurisdiction of regional competition authorities, especially the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC), with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Protocol on Competition. The Council appreciated the implementation of the AfCFTA Protocol, noting however, that the existence of the CCC and other regional competition authorities would bring about jurisdiction challenges.
The Council therefore decided that COMESA Member States should come up with a position paper on the implementation of the AfCFTA Competition Protocol to ensure that the jurisdiction of the COMESA Competition Commission is preserved.
With regard to the implementation of the COMESA Free Trade Area, the Council urged Member States that have not yet completed the process of joining, to fast track the process as a matter of priority. These are DR Congo, Eswatini, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. The COMESA Secretariat will provide updates to Member States on the Non-FTA Member States status of joining COMESA FTA on regular basis.
The Council also endorsed the decision of the Ministers of Health for a study be undertaken to assess the pharmaceutical industry in the COMESA region and propose measures to address varying procedures for registration and inspection.
It was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had created a major health and economic crisis and disrupted delivery of goods and essential services across the region. It also created challenges related to the provision of medical supplies. This situation was made worse by the fact that African countries import between 70% – 90% of their pharmaceutical products.
The Council also endorsed the decision to establish a COMESA Health Desk to facilitate the development of policy and strategic frameworks on health, coordinate the implementation of health programmes, promote local manufacturing of medicines among other activities.
On a request by Kenya for an extension of the sugar safeguard measures the Council granted a nine-month extension to allow the country to undertake outstanding domestic reform measures in the sector. The safeguards were granted to shield the country from importation of cheap sugar from the region which would threaten the survival of its sugar industry.
The 43rd meeting was opened by the Vice President of Zambia, Her Honour Mutale Nalumango. It was chaired by the Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt Hon. Ahmed Samir. This was the first physical meeting of the Council in the last two years since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.