Heads of State of Sadc, EAC and Comesa on Wednesday launched a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) aimed at bolstering intra-regional trade by creating a wider market and increased investment flows.
President Peter Mutharika, who attended the summit in Egypt, also signed the trade deal for the three existing trade blocs—the Southern African Development Community (Sadc); the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
The pact will then be officially unveiled at the upcoming summit of the African Union (AU) this weekend in South Africa.
The TFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness and encourage regional infrastructure development and pioneer the integration of the African continent.
The TFTA represents an integrated market of 26 countries with a combined population of 632 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.3 trillion.
The TFTA also offers opportunities for business and investment within the trade blocs and would help attract foreign direct investment into the region.
Speaking during the official launch ceremony, the chairperson of the tripartite summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Ato Hailemariam Desalegn said for trade pact to be efficient there is need for peace and security in the region.
“Political unrest, civil wars, terrorism are a detrimental element to achieving a successful meaningful and conducive environment for investment,” he said.
Desalegn said the elimination of trade barriers would boost productivity capacity of industries in the region.
Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamveka said though Malawi has signed the trade deal, it would implement the TFTA when it has addressed some issues such as tariffs.
Chairperson of TFTA task force, Sindiso Ngwenya, called on countries that have signed the trade agreement to implement the accord and not just sign on paper.
“Some member States have not completely liberalised free movement of business persons. This would require governments’ commitment otherwise this would make the tripartite region with thick borders,” said Ngwenya, who is also Comesa executive secretary.
The launching of the TFTA is the first phase of implementing a developmental regional integration strategy that places high priority on infrastructure development, industrialisation and free movement of business persons.
The tripartite initiative is also a step towards establishing the African economic unity vision as per the resolution of AU summit held in Gambia in 2006 to increase intra-Africa trade and investment.
While in Egypt, Mutharika held bilateral talks in camera with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sis.
Mwanamvekha said the two presidents discussed trade, investment the technical community colleges training in Malawi.
Mutharika also met Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) to discuss financial and trade-related issues in Malawi.