Countries in the East, South and Central Africa moved closer to forming a Grand Free Trade Area with the opening of a high level summit of the three regional economic blocs.
Heads of states from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) opened negotiations towards establishing a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFRA).
In the meeting held in Johannesburg, they opened discussions on harmonising policies on trade, customs and infrastructure development. When realised, the TFRA is expected to unleash enormous economic growth and development potential of Africa and will be a major milestone in the integration of the continent.
“In other parts of the world, countries with advanced levels of market integration trade more among themselves; produce more goods and services and have well developed infrastructure. This leads to high economic growth and development as well as better living standards for the people,” said President Mwai Kibaki in his opening remarks.
The integration will encompass 26 countries with a combined gross domestic product of $860 billion and a combined population of about 590 million people.
The first COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit was held in Kampala in October 2008. This time they are expected to come up with time frames for the launch and implementation.