Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) general secretary Sindiso Ngwenya has called on African countries to take the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) as an opportunity and not a challenge ahead of its launch on June 10 in Egypt.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Ngwenya said for this to be realised, countries should work together for the common good.
“The challenge is to get this message across to the public, civil servants and private sector,” Ngwenya said. He said TFTA is the most exciting trade and infrastructure development in Africa at the moment.
“There are benefits which accrue from countries being members of more than on regional economic community (REC). Among them, is the achievement of economies of scale; through developing its large internal market, Africa and producers in the continent will be in a position to compete globally,” he said.
Ministry of Industry and Trade spokesperson Wiskes Mkombezi said it is time to take advantage of TFTA by scaling up production for export.
“What we want is to grab the market by concentrating on the industrial side to produce and export more,” he said. Mkombezi said the scaling up will mostly be in the sugar sector, oil seed, beverages and plastics. Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha will attend the launch.
Trade Law Centre (Tralac) researcher William Mwanza writing in the book From Cape to Cairo: Exploring the Tripartite FTA Agenda has said although there are prospects for some products to members, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country should work on removing challenges including rules of origin to increase its exports.
The researcher, a Malawian, notes that in 2012 Malawi ranked 15th out of 27 economies with about 1.09 percent of trade exports into the region which includes 27 members under three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and the East African Community (EAC).
Mwanza appreciates that landlocked Malawi has a relatively small economy compared to other economies in the region and imports mainly fuels, fertilisers, machinery and pharmaceuticals with top sources as South Africa, China, India, Mozambique, and the United Arab Emirates.
Malawi’s top exports to the world include tobacco, uranium, tea, sugar and groundnuts being exported to Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
TFTA is a grand REC which will see the removal of both tariff and non tariff barriers in three trade blocs of Sadc, Comesa and EAC.
With the TFTA, the country will trade freely with other 25 countries.
The tripartite bloc States members account for half (26) of the membership of the African Union (AU) with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.2 trillion, a population of 625 million and a combined landmass of 17million square kilometers.
About 19 of those countries are from Comesa with a population of over 490 million, an annual import bill of around $150 billion and an export bill of $82 billion.